18 December 2014 No cheerful posts here because I haven't been feeling cheerful, thanks to a steadily worsening family health crisis. It's going to be a rotten Christmas.
6 December 2014 So much for those plans to create ebook editions of my story collections (Different Kinds of Darkness, He Do the Time Police in Different Voices) when I can find the time. Time has run out: the new EU VAT regulations which apply from 1 January 2015 are extremely hostile to small ebook vendors. See the editorial in Ansible 329 and the Last Chance Saloon post at ae.ansible.uk.
17 November 2014 We're still in the four-week period of prescribed eyedrops after that operation, and each time Hazel dutifully gives the bottle a vigorous shake. So the SF quote of the season is "I always get the shakes before a drop."
26 October 2014 At last: yesterday I had that long-awaited cataract operation. The eye is still somewhat painful and weepy, but I can say without fear of metaphor that things are looking good. Since photos of bloodshot eyeballs aren't much fun, here instead is Hazel investigating a fungus in our local cemetery.
16 October 2014 Nick Parisi interviewed me earlier this year for his Nocturnia blog. After teaser posts (in Italian) about Ansible and the mysterious Langford phenomenon ...the interview itself has now appeared, happily with an English-language version below (scroll down) so I can find out what I said.
2 October 2014 Following an email alert from Nominet today, I am now the proud owner of the ansible.uk, davidlangford.uk and sf-encyclopedia.uk net domains (reserved for me since I already owned the .co.uk equivalents). Whatever shall I do with them?
14 September 2014 Kim Huett recently sent some old fan memorabilia with these rather jolly stamps on the envelope. I don't suppose I'll ever read the commemorated author Banjo Paterson, but I love the title Clancy of the Overflow. Even if to British ears it's somehow reminiscent of plumbing. Percy of the Plughole, Danny of the Drain, Sidney of the Sump....
3 September 2014 Ever since Loncon 3 I've been kept busy with deadlines, SF Encyclopedia drudgery and post-convention lurgi. Here's Ansible 326 with terse Worldcon coverage, plus some photographs I took there.
13 August 2014 Last post here before the Worldcon. I won't be reading or answering email for several days. Pete Young's massive two-volume critical anthology about the Gollancz SF Masterworks has been published as issues 3 and 4 of his fanzine Big Sky, both available here. I have a (reprinted) piece in each. That apart, it looks very impressive.
12 August 2014 Loncon 3 is now terrifyingly close. According to the email confirmation from the committee reported by several members (though I didn't get one myself), it sounds like being a long haul:
"You have bought Adult admission for Saturday Saturday Saturday Saturday Friday Friday Sunday Saturday Sunday Monday Saturday Saturday Saturday Thursday Sunday Saturday Saturday Sunday Saturday Sunday Saturday Saturday Thursday Sunday Thursday Thursday Monday Friday Saturday Saturday Friday Sunday Thursday Friday Saturday Friday Saturday Saturday Saturday Saturday Saturday Saturday Thursday Sunday Sunday Saturday Sunday Friday Friday Saturday Sunday Friday Saturday Saturday Friday Friday Thursday Friday Monday Sunday Saturday Sunday Saturday Saturday Sunday Saturday Sunday Saturday Saturday Friday Saturday Sunday Saturday Friday Thursday Thursday Friday."
I was one of the lucky recipients of yesterday's mailmerge extravaganza beginning: "Hi, Steve Cooper / With Loncon 3 only a few days away we thought you might like details of what to do when you arrive at the ExCeL centre [much text snipped here] Your membership number is: 11 / - You have bought admission for / We hope you enjoy Loncon 3.Hi, Alice Lawson / With Loncon 3 only a few days away we thought you might like details of what to do when you arrive at the ExCeL centre ..." and so on for every subsequent member up to my own number, which is 443 ("Hi, David Langford"). Reportedly the march of the mailmerge robots went well into four figures before they managed to stop it.
1 August 2014 Once again it's Ansible Day. By the way, there are now a couple of other odd auction items on the page linked below, in addition to the stained glass. Have a look. Also on this day (a goal we'd hoped to achieve before Worldcon), the SF Encyclopedia word count passed 4,500,000. More here.
27 July 2014 Here's a teaser preview of three stained-glass panels created by Bob Shaw and now destined for the fan funds auctions at Loncon 3 in August. I bought five of these in a Novacon art show long ago (I think 1982), arranged for one to go to Bob's widow Nancy Shaw, and am still keeping the "Volcano" below for my own selfish pleasure:
5 July 2014 Jonathan Clements has posted his 2014 London Worldcon schedule, including the "Evolution of the SF Encyclopedia" panel (Friday 18:00-19:00) which is my one and only official appearance. My original low-stress plan was to have no programme items at all, but I got beguiled by that silver-tongued John Clute. Otherwise, expect to find me in the bar.
3 July 2014 I'm fond of the Inquisitor crossword in the Independent each Saturday, but don't always finish the tougher challenges. Recent ones that gave me a quiet thrill of satisfaction were #1336, the first time I've ever found it useful to know the value of e to twelve decimal places, and #1339, in which my secret powers as an editor of the SF Encyclopedia – see the entry for Stunner – enabled me to guess the gimmick from the preamble and pencil in the unclued THOMAS A SWIFT'S ELECTRIC RIFLE before tackling any actual clues. That doesn't happen every week, or indeed every year.
26 June 2014 Recent reading (courtesy of a charity stall at the canalside Reading Water Fest) included a late example of Amanda Cross's Kate Fansler mysteries, Honest Doubt. From the title I guessed that the Big Literary Theme which often pervades these academic stories was to be Tennyson, which was indeed the case: the hated Tennyson-obsessed head of a US Eng Lit department has been murdered, presumably by a colleague. Surely, I thought late in the book, it must a major clue that one of the suspects, another purported professor of Eng Lit, should quote and discuss a famous line from Coleridge ("Ancestral voices prophesying war") as a famous line from Tennyson? Clearly an impostor! But no one ever follows up this "clue", which the author apparently failed to notice, and it is decided that all the suspects dunnit in unison as in Murder on the Orient Express, a conclusion reached not so much through deduction as by watching the film and thinking "Yes, that's how it must have been. " Good grief.
Maybe, I wondered, Amanda Cross (in real life Carolyn Heilbrun) was pulling the reader's leg with that attribution? Chapter-head quotations in Kyril Bonfiglioli's Charlie Mortdecai thrillers tended to include a spurious item ("The epigraphs are all by Alfred, Lord Tennyson except one which is a palpable forgery" – After You with the Pistol). Perhaps Cross/Heilbrun also liked to slip in a booby-trapped citation? Unfortunately I haven't memorized the writings of James Joyce throughly enough to spot any possible ringer in The James Joyce Murder, and although I think I know my way around the works of W.H. Auden he's such a voluminous poet that it was no surprise to find unfamiliar quotes (misquotes?) in the Auden-themed Poetic Justice. But I note with a certain thrill that "Misquotation is the pride and privilege of the learned. " can be found in several places online, attributed to Amanda Cross.
I should insert a SPOILER WARNING before venturing on a quick synopsis of another recent detective indulgence: Jill Paton Walsh's latest Lord Peter Wimsey spinoff novel, The Late Scholar, set in a fictitious Oxford men's college called St Severin's. This involves a series of murder attempts using methods or scenarios cribbed from Dorothy Sayers mysteries, including Unnatural Death, Strong Poison, Murder Must Advertise, Have His Carcase (jolly good luck finding a haemophiliac in the cast of available victims!) and The Nine Tailors (even better luck – a convenient bell chamber!). All of which daftness is slightly distanced by the pretence that in this, ahem, alternate version of the 1950s the published novels are by Harriet Vane, based on Wimsey's cases. So Harriet the ingenious creator and conscientious researcher is reduced to Harriet the mere chronicler of her husband's career? I very much doubt that Dorothy Sayers would have approved.
3 June 2014 Nikolai Hamel, the chap who hopes to film my 1988 story "BLIT" as a graduate thesis project (this is code for "Langford doesn't get any money") begs me to tell the world about his Kickstarter page for the film. Here it is. Later: this didn't reach its target – only £1000-odd pledged out of £6000 wanted – so I assume the project is now cancelled. Later still: in fact it's going ahead on a shoestring budget.
28 May 2014 A sciencey moment today after coming in from the rain: it seemed curiously difficult to clean my glasses until I realized the mottling that wouldn't wipe off was a pattern of raindrops "remembered" by the photoreactive lenses....
18 May 2014 I was not prepared for the starkly probing question, "Why doesn't the SF Encyclopedia donations page accept Bitcoins?" Probably this was for much the same reason that despite catering to fans of Eric Frank Russell, Cory Doctorow and Philip K. Dick, we hadn't actually arranged donation channels for obs, Whuffie or rare truffle skins. However, it's best to keep up with the bleeding edge, and I'm experimenting with a Bitcoin option for the Ansible tip jar. If this proves to work, it'll appear on the SFE page too. Thus I spend my days....
16 May 2014 I don't often plug commercial ventures here, and I'm not going to start with Prospect Estate Agents of Reading, who phoned early this morning to ask Hazel whether she's still interested in selling her late father's house through them. These calls, along with further nagging by post, have been a repeated annoyance of life ever since the house was successfully sold, through Prospect Estate Agents of Reading, in December 2011. The air of gormless amazement with which their cold-callers receive this information has ceased to entertain, and the promises that this will never happen again invariably prove to be lies. For fear of legal consequences I won't speculate on the hypothetical incompetence, lack of internal communication, botched record-keeping and general ineptitude which may or may not be key business strategies of Prospect Estate Agents of Reading.
13 April 2014 Once again the dread Langford Vigilantes hit the streets ... that is, Hazel and I went walking in our local cemetery and (entirely without official authorization, which for all I know is now a high crime) picked up whatever junk we found. Mostly beer cans and bottles thrown over the wall, but today including a box of hypodermic needles and a laptop case stuffed with several dozen now extremely soggy iPad screen protectors. Presumably someone thought they were nicking a lucratively resellable computer and threw away the actual haul in disgust. But the drinks cans are the most copious and most annoying. We dream of setting M.R. James on to the perps, haunting them with an apparition having a horrible, an intensely horrible, face of crumpled lager cans. Below is a photo I took in "our" cemetery a few years ago, and used as an ebook cover.
10 April 2014 It's my birthday, but not an interestingly (i.e. alarmingly) numbered one. As a timely treat, Amazing Stories has published its interview with John Clute and myself, conducted by John Dodds in March. I see this post is tagged "Academics" ... we fooled them!
9 April 2014 More magic numbers: the SF Encyclopedia Picture Gallery image archive count reached five figures today, after a pause at 9999 while John Clute thought long and hard about a suitably inspirational choice for our ten thousandth cover scan (below). Meanwhile, the SF Gateway blog likes the Gallery slideshows; and while I was there I noticed that The Unseen University Challenge ebook has appeared at last as their New Book of the Week.
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