Ansible Review of the Year 1996

What really happened in 1996? Once again the sf newsletter Ansible opens its cobwebbed files, in search of hard facts and the bitter illumination of Truth -- but in vain. The same old distortions and cheap shots are all you get. Time-warp alert: owing to the dictates of temporal logic and the unfairly repressive Causality Laws, the January Ansible is largely about December events, and so on. Here we go, issue by issue, from Ansible 102 in January 1996....

January

Lionel Fanthorpe, practising for Fortean TV in 1997, sang lyrics of haunting beauty at the UK Year of Literature sf event: we were not afraid to publish the highlights. 'Brian Aldiss, Terry Pratchett, / Colin Wilson and the rest, / All our Science Fiction writers / Rank among the very best. (Chorus: Every kind of Science Fiction / Or an Unsolved Mystery, / Supernatural, Horror Stories / And Heroic Fantasy!) Guy N. Smith and Andy Sawyer; / Ian McDonald -- pleased to tell -- / Freddie Clarke and David Langford / And Paul Brazier's here as well. (Chorus.)' • At the same event, Colin Wilson was billed as 'a real life X-Files Agent Mulder' -- but (revealing his new serious scientific theory that Atlantis lies beneath the Antarctic ice,) soon demonstrated that by comparison Mulder is absurdly closed-minded and sceptical. • Simon R. Green proudly quoted a particularly good bon mot from his Deathstonker series, about how a character's actions 'were as sensible as a leper playing volleyball.' • Ringpull Press, recently acquired by Fourth Estate, was dumped -- again. • The December death was reported of one of the finest contemporary writers to work on the edges of fantasy: Robertson Davies, aged 82. • Diana Wynne Jones was bemused to find her Tough Guide to Fantasyland reviewed in SFX before she'd even corrected the proofs, Gollancz having wittily sent an advance copy of her MS with a publication date three months ahead of reality. • A notable fifteenth anniversary was recorded: 'The Yorkshire Ripper gave his godmother a nice box of chocolates for Xmas; when he was arrested she lost her taste for them and gave them away, which is how they came to be eaten with enormous relish by the famous D. West....' (Ansible 15, 1981) • A computer magazine review of the CD-ROM SF Encyclopedia complained that the main flaw in its update of those 1.3 million award-winning words was the presence of (shudder) Too Much Text. Voice of Emperor Josef II: 'Too many notes, Herr Clute.'

February

Walter M. Miller was reported as dying in January (suicide while depressed); Kaye Webb of long-standing Puffin editorial fame also died. • Chris Priest won the James Tait Black Memorial prize -- worth £3,000 -- for The Prestige. • Robert Rankin, having heard about the BSFA Awards, dropped a subtle hint: 'As a British writer of Science Fiction for the last sixteen years, who do you have to shag at your place to get an award? Yours hopefully....' • Michael Legat's An Author's Guide to Getting Published was found to contain a useful section on the kind of books which can't be published commercially: 'poetry or science fiction or treatises on unpronounceable compounds or a manual of Pig Sticking, or even an account of your package holiday ...' Did he really say science fiction? • Ellen Datlow bravely insisted that Omni was incredibly strong and vital despite the permanent cancellation of all printed editions even as April's was being put together. Instead, the whole operation moved into cyberspace on the web (http://www.omnimag.com).... • Thog's Masterclass quoted another neat trick: 'Ruben's left eyebrow twitched upwards, forcing a grunt past the plug of mince and potato that sounded vaguely impressed.' (Alex Stewart, 'Yesterday', in Beyond; may be partially deciphered by the understanding that the character is eating shepherd's pie.)

March

'Suddenly, the laughter fades away; Bob Shaw has died.' Chris Priest's obituary marked our saddest issue in some time, and ended: 'One cold day in Ulverston he took me for a long walk through the backstreets, ending up outside a nondescript terraced house. It was Stan Laurel's birthplace. "The funniest man in the world," Bob said sadly, "and the people who live there don't know who he was and won't allow a plaque on the wall." I don't think he was drawing a moral, but afterwards I could never hear people laughing at Bob's jokes without remembering that. Nothing I can say about him is equal to my feeling of loss at his death, and the knowledge that so many other people feel the same only makes it worse.' • Other deaths included Horace L. Gold, founding editor of Galaxy; Brian Daley, author of The Doomfarers of Coramonde; Sam Merwin Jr, once editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories and others; and Elsie Wollheim, widow of the late Donald A. Wollheim of DAW books fame. • David Garnett bragged about the return of New Worlds with him (again) at the helm, in 1997.... • No one would believe Ansible's cherished rumour about a suggested Nick Park remake of 2001 ... 'By 'eck, Gromit, it's full of cheese!'

Really Old News supplement: once upon a time in 1922, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle exacted a gentle revenge for the deserved mockery he'd received from Houdini and other magicians after endorsing the faked 'Cottingley Fairies' pictures. He confronted the Society of American Magicians in New York with what he cagily called materialized pictures emanating from the human imagination: unprecedented movie scenes of dinosaurs which to Houdini & Co. (and the New York Times) seemed bafflingly, mindbogglingly lifelike. Only next day did Conan Doyle reveal that what they'd assumed was being offered as 'spirit photography' was in fact test special-effects footage for a forthcoming film called The Lost World (1925)....

April

The Clute/Grant Encyclopedia of Fantasy entered its final throes of assembly (>> CREATION MYTH), with editors (>> DARK LORDS; INSANITY) and contributors (>> BONDAGE) struggling (>> LAST BATTLE) towards completion (>> EUCATASTROPHE). The trouble (>> WRONGNESS) with working for months (>> CALENDAR) on this behemoth (>> MONSTERS) of books (>> LIBRARY) was that sooner or later (>> TIME ABYSS; TIME IN FAERIE) you started tearing your hair (>> THINNING; TORTURE), thinking (>> PERCEPTION) entirely in cross-references (>> RECURSIVE FANTASY), and wistfully (>> SEHNSUCHT) wondering (>> PORTENTS; SCRYING) if you'll ever again have time (>> FANTASIES OF HISTORY) to visit (>> NIGHT JOURNEY; QUEST) the pub (>> INNS; PLOT DEVICES) for some relaxing beer (>> HEALING).... Actually the best genuine FE cross-reference was Mike Ashley's: GUYS >> DOLLS. • Steve Baxter won the Kurd Lasswitz award for The Time Ships. • Neil Gaiman toured hidden London for the shooting of Neverwhere ... 'I have tromped in the Fleet River (deep in a tunnel under Blackfriars bridge) and wandered the bell-towers and attics of the St Pancras Hotel, and all it cost the BBC was, um, around two million pounds actually.' He also remarked -- prophetically, some nasty people might say -- 'I worry, now that I've had so much fun on top of and underneath London, that the actual TV show will prove to be crap.' • Charles Platt began a ghoulish vigil by the bedside for dying Timothy Leary, waiting to freeze his head for the glory of cryonics; but John Sladek's theory was that Leary's brain 'would be so saturated in high-powered drugs that it would not freeze.' • John Wyndham's papers (including unpublished novels) were offered for sale at £100,000. • Elizabeth Hand's Waking The Moon and Theodore Roszak's The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein tied for the James Tiptree Jr Award. • Garry Kilworth was bemused to find the cover picture of his novel House of Tribes -- all about mice -- used as the illustration for an Elle magazine article on how to rid one's house of vermin....

Easter

Naturally Ansible reported the UK Eastercon, Evolution.... The Radisson Edwardian Hotel's eldritch, Escherian geometries were much commented upon: it was a jolt to discover that one's elaborately memorized route from bar to bedroom, featuring a long march to the foyer and several flights of stairs, could be short-circuited by walking round the corner; spatial wormholes were clearly involved. One official-looking convention sign explained: 'You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.' A few bold explorers, much scoffed at by sceptics, were said to have discovered the Art Show. • The real-ale bar offered spectacular views of doings in the adjacent swimming-pool and jacuzzi; an Intervention chairman who shall be legless was heard to babble about having acquired recurring fantasies of Sue Mason in a one-piece swimsuit. • Saturday's breakfast saw a remarkable homeopathic experiment, as by repeated dilutions the hotel kitchens achieved a juice which retained an eerie 'memory' of orangeness even though every molecule of flavour had been lost. Orthodox science and Jack Cohen were equally baffled. • Uninhibited fun at Eastercons may be coming to an end owing to Big Sister technology allowing scandalous pictures to be immediately incorporated into an 'alternative' con newsletter rather better produced than the official one. Ansible would point the finger at Alison Scott and her digital camera, but is afraid that it might be photographed and used entirely out of context. • Awards were thin on the ground. The BSFA awards succumbed to a 'technical hitch' ('The bloody administrator resigned and didn't bloody tell us,' said BSFA supremos Paul Kincaid and Maureen Kincaid Speller in a heavily expurgated interview). The Eastercon and Ken McIntyre (artwork) awards received no nominations and were cancelled. However, the Doc Weir 'good egg' award seemed hotly contested ('the fix is in for X', I was assured, for several values of X) and went to Mark Plummer. Who was incredibly embarrassed, and will be even more embarrassed to find it flaunted all over again here. (Mad cackling laughter trails off into the distance....)

May

Harlan Ellison, recovering from a quadruple heart bypass operation in April, complained about being sent so many flowers that the house smelt 'like an Algerian whorehouse'. Many fans wondered at his worldly experience. • H.G. Wells became a theme pub: HG's in Peterborough. In homage to Wells's most famous sf creations, the pub was opened by Jon Pertwee and a brace of Daleks ('Tom Baker was too expensive'), while its press release credits Wells with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. According to CAMRA spies, the quality of research accurately reflected that of the beer. • Paul J. McAuley nabbed the Arthur C. Clarke award for Fairyland, with Ken McLeod's The Star Fraction just a molecule behind as runner-up; Bruce Bethke got the Philip K. Dick award with his cyberfarce Headcrash and Robert Sawyer got the Nebula with The Terminal Experiment. • More deaths: author Richard Condon, bear-lover (later in life, bear-loather) Christopher Robin Milne, and P.L. Travers of Mary Poppins fame -- who for over 30 years had triumphantly blocked any sequel to the 1964 Disney movie which she so detested. This didn't stop some UK newspapers from sensitively heading their obituaries with stills of Julie Andrews. • A Voyager flyer for Blue Mars excited our sense of wonder with 'Ten things you didn't know about the red planet. [...] 9. Mars is the only planet in the solar system that could sustain human life.'

June

Another gloomy report: the May death and funeral of popular Gollancz editor Richard Evans. As Terry Pratchett put it, 'I think I liked it better when I was in the age group that went to each other's weddings.' • In the US, we lost the legendary fanzine "jiants" Redd Boggs and Charles Burbee -- also Ed Wood, eternal champion of the Serious and Constructive and despiser of fannish frivolity; in the media world, Jon Pertwee was mourned; yet another casualty was Vera Chapman of Arthurian-fantasy fame, who in 1969 founded the Tolkien Society. To Charles Platt's disgust, Timothy Leary decided not to have his head frozen after all (Platt: 'Life is full of disappointments') and died after arranging to have his ashes launched into space. • Pat Cadigan married Chris Fowler, not the horror novelist but 'The Original'. • John Wyndham's heirs grumbled about the previously reported sale of his papers, which had been flogged off quietly by the former estate trustee who still kept the purchaser's identity a deadly secret and (by a staggering coincidence) was handling the current inflated-price sale. • Martin Tudor became the 1996 TAFF (TransAtlantic Fan Fund) winner, doomed to travel as Europe's delegate to the 1990 Worldcon in Los Angeles. He vowed to write his trip report (the traditional account of the TAFF journey, which is traditionally not produced) while actually in America. Millions swooned. • A US writer of 'Christian filksongs' discovered to her horror that the word 'filk' came from sf fandom, and had to change the title of her new album because her church considers sf to be the work of the devil.

The Discworld Convention's newsletter carried a purported extract from the Fantasy Encyclopedia entry on Terry Pratchett, as crafted by John Clute ... 'We are complicit, all of us, in the haecceity engendered by Pratchett's chiaroscuro of disjected topoi. Pregnant with submarginal colloquy and muted velleity, he utters verbigerating apothegms of parousia -- a veritable harbinger of hypomanic cacchination.'

July

'Ansible. Filled with wild rumour, suspect speculation, gross exaggeration, dirt and innuendo ... unputdownable.' Harry Harrison, as they say, gives good blurb. But it was Peter Nicholls's proffered quote that really put me in my place, and you lot in yours: 'It is a tragedy to readers of serious fiction that David Langford has recklessly chosen to squander so many of his splendid talents on demagoguery aimed at science fiction fandom, the street people of the literary world. His inflammatory rhetoric may stimulate and madden the great unwashed, but it's hardly art.' • Brian Aldiss was much possessed by recent deaths: 'Chinese-style, I have already ordered my coffin, and am having the text of Non-Stop carved on it.' • R.I.P.: all too soon after the last wave of deaths in fandom, the much-loved, long-time Scots fan and TAFF winner Ethel Lindsay also died to universal regret. • Terry Bisson was chosen to complete the late Walter M. Miller's unfinished sequel to A Canticle for Leibowitz, for probable 1997 publication. • Various fan-run UK conventions received terrifying tax demands, the word being that Stargazer Productions -- organizers of huge, for-profit events in the Albert Hall, Birmingham NEC, etc -- were acting as informers in hope of nobbling the competition. • Bram Stoker awards for horror went to -- among others -- The Supernatural Index by Mike Ashley and William Contento (nonfiction), The Panic Hand by Jonathan Carroll (collection) and Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates (novel). • The new UK Sunday paper The Planet on Sunday had appeared on June 16, sold poorly, and instantly folded -- despite its 'brand new full-colour adventure' of Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, by Sydney Jordan. • SF circles were infested with dummies of Infinity, a new media-oriented UK skiffy mag whose seeming aim was to make SFX look (by comparison) sober, bookish and deeply uninterested in The X-Files. • Typo of the month: publicity flyers for the Simon Archer/Stan Nicholls Gerry Anderson: An Authorized Biography credit the famed puppeteer with a TV series called Stringray.

August

The grandest social occasion of the 2-5 Suffolk Street, Birmingham, season: Andromeda Bookshop had celebrated 25 years of purveying fine sf to the gentry, with the opening of this big new shop. A glittering crowd of sf literati and Greg Pickersgill saw the ribbon across the doorway being ceremonially cut by David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett and a virtual Iain Banks (whose arrived late). 'One hour ago,' marvelled bookmeister Rog Peyton, 'those shelves there were empty and covered in sawdust -- we had the authors and publishers' reps filling them....' 5,271,009 customers then flocked in for an autograph session at which Messrs Banks and Gemmell achieved signing totals in the high single figures, while an exhausted Pratchett was more or less removed on a stretcher. • Iain M. Banks mysteriously explained that although there was 'some truth' in the rumour that he was dropping the 'M' initial for his sf books, this would not in fact be happening. • Steve Baxter gloated uncontrollably over his John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Time Ships -- but barely survived the presentation at the University of Kansas, for (horror of horrors) it was a dry campus. • It was confirmed that Gene Wolfe was indeed one of the Procter & Gamble engineers who designed the machinery used for making Pringles. (The editor of Interzone failed to comment.) Critics are re-scrutinizing The Book of the New Sun in hope of identifying one of the torture machines as originally intended to produce small, curly potato nibbles. • Brian Stableford, delivering the third volume of 'my 560,000-word magnum opus Genesys', complained that Random House had revived that fine old English tradition the Tradesmen's Entrance: 'We don't accept parcels here,' said an icy receptionist. 'You'll have to take it round the back....' • Thinking back 50 years: H.G. Wells died on 13 August 1946. • The annual US Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest for awful opening sentences gave a coveted Dishonourable Mention to an sf submission: 'Baron Frankenstein looked up from his sewing, smiled benignly across the laboratory at his similarly engaged creation and protégé, and called, "Yes, yes! Put on a happy face; tonight will be your first date with the rest of your wife!"'

September

Newt Gingrich's ghosted sf novel 1945 failed to become a US best-seller, with 81% returns and 97,000 copies now clogging the warehouse shelves. Mighty publisher Jim Baen swiftly turned this to good account and guaranteed himself national US coverage from Newt-haters ... by announcing that the books might well be pulped and become, ultimately, toilet paper. • Bruce Sterling clarified his idea of fun: 'No, I will not be at Worldcon. I will be in the desert with ten thousand hippies setting fire to a giant wicker man.' • The 1999 Worldcon was voted to Australia, the doomed rival bid being for Croatia.... • Following a lawsuit against Starlog magazine for breach of copyright -- publishing artwork without permission on 'trading cards' -- bossman Norm Jacobs had to pay $30,000 to the 11 pirated artists, including our very own David Hardy. • Savoy Books did less well in High Court, being refused the previously promised right to a jury trial of whether various Savoy comics (Lord Horror, Meng & Ecker) -- seized as usual by Manchester police -- are obscene. The Crown Prosecution Service let slip the fine legal point that they didn't want a jury trial because the CPS would probably then lose. British Justice: Best In The World. • E.C. Tubb's 32nd 'Dumarest' book -- the one which DAW Books didn't think publishable, and which has appeared only in France (La Retour, 1992) -- was at last scheduled for 1997 publication by a US small press, Gryphon Books. • The Richard Evans Fund was founded in Richard's memory, aiming to encourage authors who have done fine work without gaining much recognition. • Neal Stephenson won the Best Novel Hugo for The Diamond Age, other popular winners being Babylon 5's 'The Coming of Shadows' for Dramatic Presentation and John Clute's SF: The Illustrated Encyclopedia With The Picture Of Bob Guccione On Page 79 for Non-Fiction. Modesty forbids any mention here of the Fanzine and Fan Writer awards. • Meanwhile, the Hugo for Original Artwork was axed.

October

Harlan Ellison's hot new publication was his 1960s Star Trek script The City on the Edge of Forever, with a 'blistering' 25,000-word introduction describing how the version screened in 1967 was 'eviscerated' in such a 'fatally inept' fashion that it won a Hugo. Tragically, Ellison had failed to publish this fearless denunciation in the fleeting interval, from 1967 to 1991, when its prime target Gene Roddenberry was alive to reply. • Kristine Kathryn Rusch resigned as F&SF editor, angrily denying a rumour that she didn't jump but was pushed. • The world-famous Critical Wave, which had bestridden the world of sf news magazines like a colossus since 1987, announced its own demise -- 'not so much folded as crushed by outside circumstances.' • Andy Sawyer reported on the indispensable library guide Who Else Writes Like? A Readers' Guide to Fiction Authors ... 'With an M, if you like Banks you'll like Ray Bradbury. Without, Martin Amis. If you like Mary Gentle, you may like Raymond E. Feist. Fans of Jack Vance's baroque wordplay will find themselves directed to Patrick Tilley and David Wingrove.' J.G. Ballard is listed as writing in the genres "Technology" (crashed cars?) and "Virtual Worlds" (drained swimming pools?). • Penguin Books touched new depths with their advance publicity for an on-line sf story by Steve Baxter and (the guilty man) Guy Gadney. This wittily consisted of a hoax flyer announcing a computer virus spread by e-mail, causing considerable alarm among those ignorant of the 'Good Times' virus scam from which the idea was stolen. Penguin subsequently explained with crushing logic that, in order to keep this dangerous nonsense from being widely disseminated or spread via the net, they had carefully sent it only to journalists....

November

Penguin continued to 'apologize' for their virus gaffe, in tones that courageously implied that Penguin had nothing to do with it really and that their flyers had been sent out by a fictional character. • 'Rachel Oliver', the anonymous Yorkshire pest who used to plague genre writers (Baxter, Gallagher, Greenland, Gribbin, Langford, Stableford and perhaps others) with letters pretending to be a child prodigy, had apparently been silenced by stern threats when 'she' started submitting terrible TV outlines under said writers' names. Alas, the pest's activities now began anew in the USA -- to the annoyance of initial victim Robert L. Forward. • Gordon Van Gelder of St Martin's Press was announced as the new F&SF editor. • Harper's magazine published evidence that Charles L. Dodgson was in fact Jack the Ripper -- as shown by hidden anagrams in the works of Lewis Carroll. For example, 'Twas brillig ...' rearranges as: Bet I beat my glands til / With hand-sword I slay the evil gender. / A slimey theme; borrow gloves, / And masturbate the hog more! Proof positive! • It was revealed that Martin Tudor's TAFF trip had been complicated by the fact that previous administrator Abigail Frost had mislaid the entire British TAFF fund (£2,700); she stated that the problem had to do with clinical depression, and repaid £200 with more promised real soon now....

December

Whitley Strieber distributed (by e-mail) a digitized image of a bog-standard, clichéd 'alien', praising its authenticity and recommending that everyone study it: 'it can be used to acclimatize oneself to the actual grays, which is not easy to do [when] you wake up in the middle of the night with one of them peering into your face.' • Joe Haldeman gloated uncontrollably on the sale of movies rights to The Forever War, for $365,000. • Another well-loved publisher at Gollancz died too young: Liz Knights, aged 41. • Novacon auctions proved to have raised over £1,300 for the ailing TAFF fund, but the 1997 race was cancelled owing to apparent lack of US candidates interested in coming to Intervention. • Steve Baxter picked up yet another prize for The Time Ships -- this time the BSFA award. • Uncanny foreshadowing spotted in 1981 sf story: 'I was no real artist. I was just your typical product of Babylon-5, all jargon and no vision.' ('Mallworld Graffiti' by Somtow Sucharitkul, now better known as S.P. Somtow.) • The Trek convention Contagion (proceeds traditionally donated to charity) gave up the ghost after too much tax hassle, thanks to the crafty machinations of Stargazer Productions.

Ansible's shit-hot bestseller project for 1997 was announced: by analogy with Star Trek Bloopers and Red Dwarf Smeg Ups, this would be the Literary SF/Fantasy Out-Takes video, capturing the whacky, zany lapses of the writers themselves. See Rob Holdstock go 'Ouch' as he mis-researches an earthy rut scene for Mythagos Forever! (TITANIC CANNED LAUGHTER.)] See Gene Wolfe scratch his head and mutter, 'What did I mean by that bit, exactly?' (GALES OF HILARITY.) See John Clute tergiversate! (HUGE BLAST OF CANNED HAECCEITY.) See Terry Pratchett absent-mindedly signing his lunch! (DEAFENING SHRIEKS OF MIRTH.) See Harlan Ellison prevented from completing The Last Dangerous Visions by amusingly having to change his antique typewriter ribbon! (SHORT BUT VERY LOUD BURST OF LAUGHTER.)

Christmas

Ansible's Xmas extra sadly reported the death of William Rushton, not only a fine cartoonist but author of the 1984 alternate-world sf novel W.G. Grace's Last Case, or, The War of the Worlds -- Part Two. • A spate of multiply copied net mail urged us to contact Houghton Mifflin Co, who promised one free Xmas book to hospitalized US kids for every 25 e-mails received. Futilely chasing this was a follow-up begging everyone to stop, since the 50,000 maximum had more or less instantly been passed and 2,000 books (plus 500 extra) duly donated. • Tom Holt's song 'Wild Canadian Boy, The' offered a lavish tribute to the encyclopedic intellect of John Clute:

He studied hard by night and day until his brain was packed
With constipated wisdom and a solid wadge of fact.
And though his brain was bigger than the state of Illinois,
It left no room for thinking for the wild Canadian boy.

And likewise ...

Imperious his language is, and complex is his style,
But mostly you can work it out, although it takes a while.
And wild and woolly paragraphs that puzzle and annoy
Are frequently the trademark of the wild Canadian boy.

Feetnote

Also in 1996 but not recorded in Ansible until the New Year: Carl Sagan died aged 62 on 20 December, and the omnipresent Steve Baxter remembered him at length. 'And in the current draft of my next novel I have my astronauts, bound for Titan, meeting a spry Carl Sagan early in the next century: "Sagan came out of his retirement to give them a pep talk about his studies ... Sagan was in his seventies now, and he was a little bent, that famous voice even more gravel-filled, and his hair white as snow; but he was still as handsome as all hell ..." Already this is alternate history: but what the hell, I think it should stay in.' • Comic relief was provided by Whitley Strieber, who after carefully examining that 'alien' picture added his final clarification: 'My conclusion is that this is most likely an exceptionally well executed fake. It remains the most authentic alien image that I have ever seen.' • And the Curse of Fandom struck Stargazer Productions, who were forced at the last minute to cancel a colossal 7-8 December Star Trek event at Wembley Arena, and went into liquidation before Christmas.

An overall summation? As in 1995, far too many important or loved (or sometimes both) sf people died. Growing apathy afflicted several local sf meetings, including the Birmingham SF Group and Glasgow's 'Friends of Kilgore Trout'. In London, the worry was that the famous first-Thursday-of-the-month gatherings were being killed by the Wellington pub's popularity, as hordes of suited people who actually like hideously loud juke-box music continued to squeeze out the fans. (In 1997, exploratory moves to another pub began.) The publishing industry continued its successful policy of appallingness, with occasional bright spots which are not listed here. And so on.

Masochists can read the original issues of Ansible at http://news.ansible.uk/ -- in particular, the full text of 'Wild Canadian Boy, The' is at http://news.ansible.uk/a113x.html ... Non-masochists may prefer to send an SAE for the latest issue, to Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berks, RG1 5AU.