David Langford

Langford photo

8 June 2017 Brother Jon asks me to post this vital cultural document. Click on it to see the full-size image; there's more information online at www.mekonville.co.uk.

Mekopns poster

2 October 2017 Who could have expected such an astonishing development as the appearance of Ansible 363? Buried deep in its innards is the news that the free ebooks page now includes Can't Get Off the Island, the collection of Greg Pickersgill's fanwriting produced by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer for the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon.

1 September 2017 Ansible 362 is published today and accompanied by a memorial supplement for the late great Brian Aldiss (1925-2017). A printable PDF version of the latter has since been posted as Ansible 362½

10 August 2017 As already announced in Ansible 361 (though not very prominently) and on Facebook, I'm offering copies of my first solo book War in 2080: The Future of Military Technology (1979) for the cost of small-parcel postage within the UK (only). Signed hardback first edition in dust jacket, with errata sheet. Yes, of course this is dated, but I hope it's still fun; there are many science fiction references for the SF fans. See button below, borrowed from the PayPal donations page: the suggested amount is £3.50 to allow for PayPal's commission but you're welcome to bump it up a bit if feeling madly generous.

1 August 2017 Regular readers will have been expecting Ansible 361, but nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! I'm sorry, I'll read that again: also out today is the ebook of my and Chris Morgan's Facts & Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions – revised and significantly expanded from its 1981 print incarnation.

Facts & Fallacies

26 July 2017 Don't tell John Clute I said so, but SF Encyclopedia maintenance involves an awful lot of tedious drudge-work. Only once in a while do I find the time and inspiration for a new article that's actually fun to write, recent examples being the long theme entry for Swearing and the shorter author/artist piece on David Malki ! of Wondermark fame. • Meanwhile, Hazel was charmed by this Underground-style map of Britain's Roman roads, while I came across a link to a forgotten Langford interview conducted by someone from the British Computer Society and hosted on their site.

30 June 2017 Suddenly it's the July issue of Ansible (a day early for reasons too tedious for the puny human intellect to comprehend), with the usual departments and, yet again, announcements of still more additions to the TAFF Free Ebooks page.

8 June 2017 Brother Jon asks me to post this vital cultural document. Click on it to see the full-size image; there's more information online at www.mekonville.co.uk.

Mekopns poster

2 June 2017 Every time I release an ebook there's a storm of two or three complaints, usually from the same people, deploring these new-fangled electrons and asking for a print edition. Which would mean a great deal more work (especially for the new Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews with its vast size and need for multiple indexes, which are a huge pain to recreate for a POD document). If only fifty or a hundred people were clamouring in earnest for a "real book", that would sway me; but last time I catered for the usual two or three, the resulting two or three – all right, half a dozen – sales emphatically did not justify the time and effort. • Much of the Langford backlist that I've been reissuing in ebook form is still available in print, as listed with links on this page. While checking those links I found that one edition has acquired a wholly unfamiliar blurb: This new collection of essays, commissioned from a range of scholars across the world, takes as its theme the reception of Rome's greatest poet in a time of profound cultural change. Amid the rise of Christianity, the changing status of the city of Rome, and the emergence of new governing classes, Vergil remained a bedrock of Roman education and identity. This volume considers the different ways in which Vergil was read, understood and appropriated; by poets, commentators, Church fathers, orators and historians. The introduction outlines the cultural and historical contexts. Twelve chapters dedicated to individual writers or genres, and the contributors make use of a wide range of approaches from contemporary reception theory. An epilogue concludes the volume. • What a scholar I was in those days! I mean, what a range of scholars. Now I feel the urge to daringly conclude a volume with an epilogue.

1 June 2017 It's publication day for Ansible 359, which in turn announces the release of Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews and several of those planned additions to the TAFF Free Ebooks page (see previous post).

Short Shrift

21-31 May 2017 I thought my submission of Rob Hansen's THEN to the "fake reviews for charity" initiative at Theaker's Quarterly had missed the deadline and wouldn't be reviewed, but Rob just spotted it here. That led me to discover the also previously unnoticed review of All Good Things, in which that nice Mr Theaker has an old tormentor at his mercy yet magnanimously turns the other cheek. I am all abashed. • During a long post-Eastercon bout of vague unwellness and lack of energy (I really must stop going to these things), I somehow lapsed again into the obsessive making of ebooks. Doing four simultaneously is probably an error: (1) Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews assembles a vast mass of reviews considered too short for inclusion in my more pretentious nonfiction collections, plus various brief bookish squibs, spoofs, review roundup columns and obituaries. The current tally is 650+ items covering over 800 books, all totting up to 262,000 words. (2) Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions, the ebook of my and Chris Morgan's 1981 title – slightly revised to remove glaring embarrassments and to add at least one bonus item in each chapter. (3) Beachcombings (tentative title), still very much a work in progress, a sort of follow-up to The Silence of the Langford with a similar mix of fannish and generally light-hearted (though of course frighteningly authoritative) professional material, convention speeches, etc. (4) The TAFF Anthology, again a tentative title, began as a simple scheme to assemble all the fragments of unfinished Trans-Atlantic Fun Fund trip reports hosted at the TAFF site. Complications included the discoveries that some old material still wasn't on the site, that at least one long-incomplete report is regarded by its author as a work actively in progress, and that deciding on a cut-off date (so as not to put undue pressure on very recent TAFF winners) has its own difficulties. The digital text currently stands at 95,000 words, including some excellent writing, but work has temporarily stalled while waiting for permissions and further needed pieces. This will be coming sooner or later to the TAFF Free Ebooks page, where the latest additions are Fanorama (1950s/1960s columns first collected 1998 and long out of print) and The Harp at Chicon (1952) by Walt Willis, The Goon Omnibus (1950s/1960s fan humour first collected 1993 and long out of print) by John Berry, and the one I forgot to list above as (5) – Ansible Second Series 1991-2000. The last, running to 360,000 words, continues from Ansible First Series 1979-1987 (a 300,000-worder which was already on the TAFF page) with issues 51-161 of the infamous newsletter. I'll need a long rest before embarking on the ebook which logically must follow, Ansible Second Series 2001-2010....

2 May 2017 Here, as predicted yesterday by means of lengthy and complex algorithmic computations, is Ansible 358.

1 May 2017 I don't mind working on UK bank holidays but the Ansible printers think differently; so I hope to publish the May issue tomorrow. Meanwhile, let it be known that Rob Hansen's THEN has just won the 2017 Fanzine Activity Achievement Award in the category of Best Special Issue. Congratulations, Rob!

28 April 2017 Paul Barnett sends the link to a 2001 review of The Leaky Establishment that I missed when it first appeared.

14 April 2017 Now I'm off to Birmingham for the UK national Eastercon, which this year is nameless and thus called Innominate. Here's the programme schedule page. I make only two official appearances: at the NewCon Press launch, 6:30-7:30pm Friday (today) and, representing Rob Hansen of THEN fame, the BSFA Awards ceremony (5:30-7pm Saturday) [alas, Rob didn't win but we all love Geoff Ryman, who did]. • Meanwhile, here's a politically inflammatory cartoon from the traditional Judy Horacek birthday card sent to me by Yvonne Rousseau.

Judy Horacek card

10 April 2017 A birthday lunch treat in a local canalside pub whose gents' toilet has a forward-thinking notice:

Jolly Anglers notice

30 March 2017 A little earlier than expected, here's Ansible 357. Also earlier than expected was my first fan letter (and a very nice one too) on All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions. Although this isn't officially published until 21 April, NewCon Press is already filling orders for the trade paperback edition. The limited-edition hardbacks will have to wait until I've signed them all at Eastercon.

14 March 2017 Time to book my rail ticket to the UK Eastercon. The NewCon Press book launch for All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions is currently expected to be at 5pm 6:30pm on Good Friday. I'm also Rob Hansen's official representative at the BSFA Awards, where his THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980 is a nonfiction finalist. There are no plans for an Ansible Editions table in the dealers' room, but if anyone wants a printed copy of Then I could bring a small number for sale at the special Novacon prices: £16 trade paperback, £24 hardback. Please let me know by email if you'd like one.

1 March 2017 Happy St David's Day. Also, here's Ansible 356.

27 February 2017 My promised nonfiction collection All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions, officially published by NewCon Press/Steel Quill on 21 April 2017, will indeed be launched at Eastercon and is already available for pre-order at the NewCon Press website. The cover is by regular column illustrator Andy Watt, from the SFX 250 instalment, and many more of Andy's cartoons are to be reprinted in the book. Besides the trade paperback with black-and-white interior art, there is to be a super luxury hardback with the illustrations in full colour.

Last SFX Visions

19 February 2017 The BSFA Awards shortlist has been released and (wearing my Ansible Editions hat) I am of course delighted that Rob Hansen's THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980 appears in the nonfiction category.

17 February 2017 My final collection of Langford columns from SFX magazine is to be launched at Eastercon as a title in the Steel Quill nonfiction imprint of Ian Whates's NewCon Press. Besides the 2009-2016 columns it contains reviews and criticism published elsewhere in the same period, bringing the total to 100 pieces plus a new introduction.

1 February 2017 Despite being so short, February is a bonus month with two issues of Ansible. The usual coverage appears in Ansible 355 and – reviving the long-lost tradition of extra "half issues" – Ansible 355½ is devoted to Tom Shippey's funeral tribute to Peter Weston.

11 January 2017 January freebie at Ansible Editions: the first 48pp of Rob Hansen's history of UK fandom (including introductions and the entire 1930s section) can be downloaded without charge until the end of the month. Why, yes, this is indeed a naked attempt to influence BSFA Award voters in their choices for the nonfiction shortlist.

7 January 2017 Good news for Ansible Editions: Rob Hansen is on the longlist for the nonfiction category of the BSFA Awards with his monumental tome THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980.

3 January 2017 There was an unavoidable delay between first-footing and first-Ansibleing, but here at last is the January issue.

1 January 2017 Happy New Year to all. The photo shows a mystical cosmic alignment (possibly marking the architect's birthday) whereby in late December the sun briefly shines through an upstairs window, slants through the full depth of the house and lights up our front door from inside. As Erich von Däniken was wont to say, "This proves it!"

Durin's Door

15 December 2016 You read it here last! I finally got around to looking through Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction (Oxford University Press 2007) edited by Jeff Prucher. Yes, I know it's a nonfiction Hugo winner and I should keep track of these things, but the acquisitive impulse and opportunity to buy didn't coincide until a copy turned up in Oxfam the other day. A happy surprise is that there are cites from myself and Ansible under various headwords: CoA, -con, Frankenstein complex (did I really write that sentence? Ah, it was in a parody), multiverse, science-fictional, skiffy, space-operatic, and maybe others that I missed. Also lots of friends' names – and mine too – in the list of OED SF Citations Project credits. • The website for this project still exists but I suspect it's no longer being updated. "Condom" as shorthand for convention fandom, the one fannish term whose first citation there is from Ansible (though I'm sure that even in this sense it must be older), was not alas thought worthy of inclusion in Brave New Words. • On the principle that egoboo (look it up) never comes too late, I emailed Peter Weston in case he didn't already know that his fannish memoir With Stars in My Eyes features in the very select bibliography of books about fandom. He was pleased. Teresa Nielsen Hayden probably has mixed feelings about the appearance of her Making Book in the same list, since the author credit is to her least favourite typo "Theresa Nielsen Hayden" and the name should be alphabetized under N, not H. • The Plain People of Fandom: Bet you searched that list in vain for your own The Silence of the Langford, eh? Myself: I wasn't going to mention that, but since you raise the point, I was more than consoled by the three Langford books listed under "General Non-Fiction, Criticism, Essays". The same number as John Clute....

Brave New Words

1 December 2016 Like a bowl of cold gruel or a miserable lump of coal in your Christmas stocking, the December Ansible marks the beginning of the official "Bah! Humbug!" season. This issue reports the launch of the Ansible Editions ebook of Yvonne Rousseau's delightfully ingenious The Murders at Hanging Rock – click on the cover image for more:

The Murders at Hanging Rock

1 November 2016 As Oscar Wilde so memorably said, the only thing worse than being in Ansible is not being in Ansible. Especially the November 2016 issue.

26 October 2016 Readers of Ansible will remember that the Hungarian magazine Galaktika has a history of naughtily publishing translated stories without permission or payment. I never got around to complaining – the queue seemed far too long – but a few days ago they contacted me with an apology and an offer of modest fees for two Langford stories published in 2007 and 2011. Payment duly arrived, and it turns out that my name appeared on both relevant covers. Here's one.

Galaktika

11 October 2016 The childish pleasure of discovering that the GIMP program I use for fiddling with ebook cover designs can do animated GIFs. Hence the following perversion of a 2002 Ansible cartoon by the late great D. West....

D. West

11 October 2016 It's rare for me to contribute guest posts to blogs – I never have enough time to keep all my own sites updated – but the Milford SF Writers' Conference made me an offer I didn't dare refuse. Hence a few reminiscences here.

3 October 2016 After the traditional delay occasioned by the fact that there is still a print edition (yes, Virginia) and the printers close at weekends, here in all its lack of splendour is Ansible 351.

26 September 2016 Two ebooks in a single month? This is madness. After the emotional upheaval of pushing through the sale of my mother's house to the point of actual exchange of contracts, I felt the need to distract myself with some soothing and even boring activity – which made me think at once of my 2009 collection of mouldy old computer magazine columns, The Limbo Files. Oh dear, I think I've just failed again in the subtle art of the Hard Sell.

The Limbo Files

11 September 2016 Blowing my own trumpet again ... as a change from what seems like years of work on Then (as below), I have at last prepared an Ansible Editions ebook of my sf novel The Space Eater. • Meanwhile, as compensation for the withdrawal of the free ebook of the old, unexpanded Then – which seemed likely to cause general confusion – Rob Hansen's fanfiction The Reaffirmation now replaces Then on the TAFF site's free ebooks page. Note that this is a sequel of sorts to the legendary The Enchanted Duplicator (ebook available from the same page) and expects some knowledge of the original.

The Space Eater

8 September 2016 The promised ebook of Rob Hansen's Then (see 10 and 16 August below) is now available through the official Then page.

1 September 2016 Here's Ansible 350. No special ceremonies attend the appearance of this suspiciously round number.

16 August 2016 At last I''ve received and can gloat over the first hardback proof of Rob Hansen's Then (see 10 August post below). Both hardback and trade paperback will be announced in the September Ansible, but early adopters can buy now through the official Then page and the Ansible Editions shop at Lulu.com.

10 August 2016 The first book edition of Then, Rob Hansen's history of science fiction fandom in the UK – much expanded and incorporating extensive new research since its long-ago fanzine incarnation – is on the brink of publication by Ansible Editions (where the book's official page is now up). Indeed it would be on sale even as I write, if I hadn't been persuaded to create a hardback version as well as the planned trade paperback. Soon, soon ...

Then

1 August 2016 Well, this should have been posted on 1 August but comes later because things were complicated and I forgot. Ansible 349 reveals to a palpitating world that Ansible® is now a registered trade mark in the UK! Plus some perhaps less boring news on science fiction and the like.

21 July 2016 An unexpected freebie: Jonathan Coleclough's calligraphed UK SF/Fantasy Literary Map, made up from the names of writers in more or less appropriate locations. I'm hugely flattered to find myself plastered all over Reading.

1 July 2016 Here's Ansible 348.

22 June 2016 I'm finding the EU referendum both stressful and depressing. The Remain campaign has hardly scintillated, while Leave has been shameless in its use of demonstrable untruths and misleading figures which are never retracted no matter how often exposed. I'll be voting Remain because I believe it's the wiser option – and also because, if better and truer arguments on the other side should come along, there will always be another opportunity to make the irrevocable and possibly catastrophic decision to Leave. After a Leave victory, though, we won't be offered another chance to vote Remain.

17 June 2016 I hadn't really thought that anyone would notice my (involuntary) retirement as SFX magazine columnist; but #276 dated August 2016 just arrived, and right at the end of the letter pages ....

SFX letters, August 2016

1 June 2016 Today is the first of flaming Ansible 347.

28 May 2016 Happy surprise in today's i newspaper: David Langford of Reading is listed as a winner of the recent Inquisitor crossword set by "Phi". I've won the traditional Inquisitor champagne prize (now prosecco, and henceforth chocolate) several times in the past, but had never before finished one of those extra-intimidating puzzles that start with an empty grid without numbers or bars. Or, in this case, any indication of answer lengths. It turned out to have a slightly science-fictional theme.

22 May 2016 Rob Hansen's THEN: A History of UK Science Fiction Fandom 1930-1980 – much revised, corrected and expanded from its original four-volume fanzine appearance – continues to progress towards an actual trade paperback. Today I added what I hope are the final 1970s photos of sensitive fannish faces to the POD working document. Just when it seemed to be finished, Terry Frost posted a New Worlds 9 (Spring 1951) ad for the 1951 "Festivention" that was too good not to squeeze in somewhere: see below. 2/6d admission! And lucky members got to see PROFESSIONAL CELEBRITIES! • The current THEN is 428 pages long, without the yet-to-be-compiled index. Proof copies now awaited. I feel I've been working on this thing all my life. But of course all the real heavy lifting has been done by Rob Hansen.

1951 UK convention ad

18 May 2016 By popular lack of request, the expanded ebook edition of my 2009 mostly-nonfiction collection Starcombing.

Starcombing

29 April 2016 Hooray, hooray, it isn't the first of May, but Ansible 346 is out today! [Fix that scansion before you post – Ed.]

22 April 2016 Another momentous day of destiny: SFX #274 (dated July 2016) has arrived and contains the very last of the long series of Langford columns published in every issue since the first, dated June 1995. Am I downhearted? Yes, actually, but I've tried to cheer myself up with an expanded ebook of the first collection of these columns (1995-2005): The SEX Column and Other Misprints, first published 2005. More SFX columns, from 2005 to 2009, appear along with much other material in Starcombing, and all the rest should be collected (with a few extras to make 100 items in all) as The Last SFX Visions, now in preparation. A leading small-press publisher has expressed interest....

The SEX Column

1 April 2016 Guaranteed free of tiresome April Foolery, here's Ansible 345. Yes, the paragraph about my SFX column being terminated is all too true. I thought I was safe for a few issues beyond #274 since I have formal commissions for three more columns, but the ultimate decision from on high was: "Tough shit, and we laugh at your pathetic suggestion of a kill fee."

23 March 2016 Since people have asked, this is my provisional Manchester Eastercon schedule. Thursday: stay home in Reading. Friday: stay home in Reading. Saturday: stay home in Reading. Sunday: stay home in Reading. Monday: stay home in Reading.

19 March 2016 At last I've determinedly taken a little time off other projects (mainly the ever-demanding SF Encyclopedia and the first trade paperback edition of Rob Hansen's UK fan history THEN, much expanded from its original fanzine incarnation) to rejig another Langford backlist title into ebook form. This is the big retrospective critical collection from 2003, Up Through an Empty House of Stars, as below; contents list here. The Ansible Editions site originally announced this for April 2016, but I got all excited and brought it forward to March. Buy it now! Act without thinking!

Up Through an Empty House of Stars

1 March 2016 Butting through the Channel in the mad March days, here comes Ansible 344. And God help all who sail in her.

27 February 2016 It hasn't been a good month, but I cheered myself up by improving that list of Josh Kirby Covers with many links to a new Josh Kirby Gallery (reusing some routines written for the SF Encyclopedia Picture Gallery in a simpler context). Good-quality scans of missing covers are welcome and will be credited.

1 February 2016 Here's this month's Ansible. It wasn't much fun to produce, I don't know exactly why. Maybe #350 later this year would be a good time to stop: that would take the count to 300 monthly issues without a break since the 1991 revival. Twenty-five bloody years!

23 January 2016 Another Great British Newspaper Headline to go down in history with the classic "Nudist Welfare Man’s Model Wife Fell For The Chinese Hypnotist From The Co-op Bacon Factory" – from which, I now learn, the intended first word "Legless" was sadly cut for space reasons. • Later: I've added a few more SFX columns to the vast online archive. Alas, the allowed word count shrinks with every redesign of the magazine, and it'll be a while before I can fill another book.

14 January 2016 Timeless sentiment from an old detective novel: "The crying need of this age is some means of protecting historic buildings from town councils." (R. Austin Freeman, The Mystery of Angelina Frood, 1924)

4 January 2016 Today, shyly peeping through the withered verbiage, comes the first Ansible of the year. Not without difficulties: after the usual slog into Reading town centre to get the paper edition printed, we found the one and only copy shop in a state of deep uncertainty about when the ailing photocopier would be cured of its New Year hangover. It seemed advisable to buy in some coloured paper and print Ansible at home: though braced for exorbitant costs on the order of £10 a ream at horrible old Ryman, I was taken aback by the actuality of six quid for 100 sheets (i.e. £30 per ream). Must invest in some emergency stock from an outlet with sane prices....

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Selected Blogs
Bad Science (Ben Goldacre)
BoingBoing
Fifteensquared (crosswords)
Hooting Yard (Frank Key)
Making Light (the Nielsen Haydens)
Christopher Priest
Sibilant Fricative (Adam Roberts)
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol)
Charlie Stross

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DoonesburyThe OatmealSaturday Morning Breakfast CerealWondermarkxkcd

Family Links
Jon Langford on MySpace
Jon Langford: Art and Music
Jon's Paintings
[Jon] The Mekons
[Jon] Waco Brothers fan site
Rock Candy: Helen Tsatsos's jewellery
Cousin Susan, Dog Fancier
Peg O'Keef at IMDB

Reading Local Interest
Kall Kwik (Ansible printer)
Museum of English Rural Life
Oxfam Bookshop
Reading Museum, home of The Other Bayeux Tapestry

Some people send photos of this sign ...

LANGFORD town sign

... but more prefer this one:

HANGING LANGFORD town sign