2005 Log

30 December 2005 Very slightly early: Happy New Year to all of you. 2005 is ending and so, alas, after 201 instalments, is the weekly The Runcible Ansible. No more Friday-evening uploads for me. But it's been fun.

23 December 2005 I was going to upload such wonderful special things for Christmas (what they are yet I know not, but they shall be the terror of the earth) ... time is running out, however, and I'm still too tired and busy. Seasonal best to all and sundry; apologies for the lack of Christmas cards; and here instead is a perfunctory Cloud Chamber consisting mostly of letter column. Bah! Humbug!

9 December 2005 Again it's bad news: goodbye, Robert Sheckley.

30 November 2005 Owing to the huge (which here means "small") demand for an Ansible RSS feed, I've finally stirred myself to add a rather minimalist effort at news.ansible.co.uk/rss.xml. Would it be a good idea to include the usually-weekly Runcible Ansible instalments? And to add a separate feed for all ansible.co.uk site updates, to parallel the list here? Feedback would be welcome.

28 November 2005 I've been away from home and net access again, but now feel much recovered. One cheering arrival since my return: a parcel crammed with Cosmos editions of the four John Sladek anthologies first published during his lifetime, now reissued with new typesetting by Ansible E-ditions and similarly themed covers by Juha Lindroos and Garry Nurrish -- all very swish-looking. Also: courtesy of Gordon Van Gelder, issue #2 (Automne 2005) of Fiction -- the new French F&SF -- containing the no doubt superbly translated story "Obscurités multiples" in which the Gallic tradition of acronym reversal has converted my Blits to Tilbs. Also: the Orion/Gollancz catalogue reveals that VG's new hardback edition of The Wyrdest Link will appear in April 2006. Meanwhile, while I was away, new trouble has afflicted the London First Thursday pub meetings ....

16 November 2005 I'm going to work out this RSS thing for Ansible one of these days, but don't hold your breath. Meanwhile ... yet another distraction from site updates is looming, and will loom for several days. Be patient, or the Astral Leauge Will Take Measures. Rather tiresomely, I had to miss Novacon since I still wasn't feeling 100% -- see below.

9 November 2005 Much gratitude to Patrick Nielsen Hayden for pointing out that I'm not the only writer to attract the menacing attentions of Robert Stanek Fandom. Join the club, Stephen Leigh! • My more famous brother Jon writes in response to the recent medical excitement, which apparently runs in the family. "Blimus! I do hope you are feeling better... that sounds deeply unpleasant -- I had one in my upper lip for years and years and it suddenly did the same growing thing but only reached the size of a pea before some blood thirsty Leeds quack sliced it out -- I imagine it rotating very slowly around your far more impressive golf ball somewhere in cyst heaven...."

7 November 2005 Rather a long silence since my last update here, although I contrived to meet my usual deadlines and to produce the November Ansible. Thanks to all, or at least to many, for the cheering response to this issue -- especially appreciated since I was feeling low. • The trouble was that I hadn't had much sleep for many weeks owing to a tiresomely inflamed cyst on the side of my head. This had been present for forty years or more as a barely perceptible bump, but recently it acquired delusions of grandeur and tried to conquer the world. (You may now pause for a merry quip about swelled heads in the wake of Glasgow Hugo wins, but please keep this to yourself.) My doctor dealt with the problem on 4 November ... "There'll be LOTS OF BLOOD because of all the scalp vessels," he said cheeringly, and later added: "One of the biggest I've ever removed! Size of a golf ball." Gulp. Anyway, with many stitches in place, I still have a sore head but one which on that side is perceptibly smaller. It's a hell of a way to lose weight. Normal service will sooner or later be resumed. • Yes, I forgot to update the macro that generates the plain text Ansible for email and Usenet, and the claimed link to the "nice HTML version" went to the old Glasgow site rather than news.ansible.co.uk. My thanks, through gritted teeth, to the 5,271,009 readers who pointed this out.... Redirection page now in place.

16 October 2005 Presumably desperate for fillers, David Randall of The Independent on Sunday raided Thog's Masterclass for today's "Observatory" column. His selections all came from this 1994 sf convention newsletter. Better, i.e. more excruciating, material from our showcase of fine sf/fantasy prose has appeared in the years since then: see almost any issue of Ansible and page down to Thog's Masterclass...

8 October 2005 Here's Ansible 219 (October 2005): business as usual, except that I'm no longer updating the Glasgow site. Key pages there -- home, second series index, links, etc -- now point visitors to the corresponding news.ansible.co.uk pages. Otherwise, old Glasgow links (except for the forbidden issue 181) remain OK for now; but the whole site could vanish at any time.

2 October 2005 Well, now we know who objects to three-year-old Ansible news items. See The Runcible Ansible 189, and marvel at the spinelessness of the Glasgow administrators who were panicked by vague "legal" menaces not apparently written by an actual lawyer ("malice of forethought", indeed) and sent from the anonymity of a Hotmail address.

23 September 2005 Following on from yesterday ... the Glasgow Ansible archive is now accessible again, though probably not for much longer, and with the offending issue blocked to any visitor who doesn't know about the link below. Still no word of who complained, or what about!

22 September 2005 Mother of God, is this the end of Ansible? The Glasgow University archive is suddenly "Forbidden": not the usual server problems, but managerial panic in the wake of reported threats of legal action from some so far unnamed American who principally objects to issue 181. Who can this possibly be? The Ansible mirror site persists, but my days may be numbered....

20 September 2005 The "new" (as of 30 August) broadband net connection is working at last. In the interim, I've been on holiday for a while.

6 September 2005 I'm having some tiresome net access problems, and will probably be slow to answer e-mail or update websites extensively until the Miraculous Visit of the Healing Engineer, expected on 16 September. Maybe.
• Meanwhile, Mr Priest would surely like me to remind you all about the on-line presence of Chris Priest's Worldcon GoH Speech -- an Ansible exclusive!

31 August 2005 A fannish project not previously mentioned here. Peter Roberts granted permission for the creation of an on-line archive of his 1970s UK sf/fan newsletter Checkpoint (and its interim editors Ian Maule and Darroll Pardoe agreed) ... so here it is, under construction. Much more scanning or rekeying will be needed.

30 August 2005 Another grim day. My uncle Geoffrey Langford (elder brother of my late father) died on the 19th, and my mother and I went to the funeral in Ickenham today.Of course I feel guilty about not having sent Uncle Geoff just one more letter....

18 August 2005 Rog Peyton, ace book dealer, asks me to mention that he has copious stocks of The SEX Column available via mail order or eBay/PayPal -- details on the linked page.

11 August 2005 The Glasgow Worldcon has come and gone, and I've been back home for a couple of days, struggling with deadlines while recovering from stripped throat lining, jangled nerves, and too much fun. Thanks to various people and publishers for:
• Two Hugo awards, including the hitherto unthinkable Best Semiprozine. (The answer to the next question is: 26 in all, level at last with Charles N. Brown.) Full Hugo details: Winners, Ceremony Script, Final Statistics, and Nomination Statistics.
• The signing of contracts for a third edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, to be co-edited by John Clute, David Langford and (Editor Emeritus) Peter Nicholls.
• The temptation of another possible book deal, still shrouded in confidentiality.
• The mighty egoboo of signing lots of copies of The SEX Column.
• Assorted freebies, drinks, parties, silliness, and companionship.
• A demi-official "Pillar of TAFF" award created by Sarah Prince and presented by Randy Byers.
• Did I mention the Hugos? Much gratitude for all the messages of congratulation!

More BLIT input (see 1 July, below). Everything I thought I knew about this acronym is wrong, reports Mel Anderson: apparently it's merely a "Backless Lingerie Invisible Thong. Might make you go blind, but not (necessarily) mad." Thank you so much, Mr Anderson.

3 August 2005 And now ... The Scottish Convention. I hope I'll see a good many of my regular readers there. The schedule below may not, however, survive contact with reality.

My Interaction Schedule
Friday 5pm: The Secret History of Ansible (talk)
Saturday 12-12:30pm: Signing The SEX Column for The Talking Dead
Saturday 2pm: Kaffeeklatsch
Sunday 2pm: Sorting SF After 200 Years (panel with John Clute, Darren Nash, Peter Nicholls)
Sunday 6pm: Hugo Reception
Sunday 8pm: Hugo Ceremony
Also: In the bar, passim. Autographing The SEX Column and other Langfordiana at the Replay Books table, and anywhere else they'll let me. Parties -- Friday: Gollancz (not, alas, the clashing Macmillan/Tor UK thrash). Saturday: Voyager? Sunday: oh dear, Orbit's party overlaps the Hugo reception....

22 July 2005 Here it is! My author's copies of The SEX Column and other misprints arrived today. So it's out in time for Worldcon, though for values of "out" that don't yet include Amazon availability. Control yourselves. • The Glasgow site is still refusing updates. That's a whole week now, and our Wonderful Webmaster won't be back from his holiday until the 25th. [29 July: fixed at last. Phew.]

19 July 2005 For several days I've been unable to update the Glasgow University site which hosts Ansible and TAFF -- the FTP server seems to have died. I've uploaded Randy Byers's latest TAFF newsletter here, rather than keep him waiting, and will add it to the Glasgow site when I can....

15 July 2005 Another book finalized -- just in time, I hope, for copies to be available at Interaction. The SEX Column and other misprints is a bumper nonfiction collection commemorating my ten years of writing for SFX magazine. Buy it, buy it.

12 July 2005 More censorship! I see that my column for SFX 130 (August) refers to the Daily Mail as a "reactionary organ" rather than what I actually and more accurately called it: a poisonous rag.

11 July 2005 Here's a new Gollancz edition of my Discworld quizbook The Unseen University Challenge -- in hardback, no less, using the patent small format of Bored of the Rings and other Gollancz parodies. Happily I was not required to change my byline to D.R.R.R. Langford. The internal layout seems much better than in the original 1996 paperback, and of course this version incorporates all known corrections.

7 July 2005 I'd been thinking of going into London for the First Thursday sf pub meeting tonight, but then came the news of terrorist bombs at Underground stations. So I'm still safe in Reading, 40 miles away, and fervently hope everyone I know is equally unscathed. Later: this seems to be the case.

1 July 2005 June has gone, and oh argh: the Glasgow Worldcon is no longer a distant prospect but next month! • Gary Wilkinson, who for some dark reason made a point of visiting a Toyota showroom while on holiday in Tokyo, tries to convince me that they've named a car after my short story "Blit" -- see his furtively taken photo.

28 June 2005 Another secret meeting at a certain London publishing house, where John Clute and I discussed plans for that third edition of the Encyclopedia of SF. This had seemed quite excitingly imminent when we previously gathered in the same publisher's conference room in mid-June 2003....

25 June 2005 After years in the wilderness it's nice to be in Fortean Times again (August issue, just out) with a piece on H.G. Wells. Although I didn't personally include all the cross-references to back issues of FT, most of the words seem to be mine -- the chief exception being the irrelevant stuff in parentheses about "Baroness Budberg", who is presumably of great interest to some subeditor. The authentic Langford text will appear on this site some day.... (Like my past FT contributions.) • Meanwhile, in desperate haste and for corrupt personal gain, I have written the introduction for an imminent SFX/HarperCollins promotional thingy about fantasy.

19 June 2005 Here I am, back again after a blissful week away from home and net access in wild Wales. If I start talking about the backlog of paperwork and e-mail, I'll only gibber: apologies for sluggish response, and to anyone whose message fell prey to over-zealous spam deletion. (Especially if you were offering me money. Offer it again! Don't be shy!) Even The Runcible Ansible took a break, but returned on Friday the 17th.

6 June 2005 Slight embarrassment at Langford HQ. I was cheered to receive one of the relaunched N3F sf achievement awards ("Neffies") for Ansible, but in the last-minute hell of putting together the June issue I clean forgot to mention this. Or rather, I thought I'd listed the winners but was remembering The Runcible Ansible for 3 June. Apologies, N3F voters -- and I have belatedly sneaked in a reference at the end of the on-line Ansible 215. Remember, Langford, thou art fallible.

29 May 2005 Steve Davies and Giulia de Cesare threw a house-warming party at their new Reading home (official change-of-address notice to follow in the June Ansible), where Martin Hoare and I and a thin scattering of local fans marvelled at the swish residence and garden, the fishpond allegedly stripped bare by visiting herons, the multiple-barbecue food production line, and the outdoor hot tub in which it was fatally easy to imagine future Plokta editorial meetings taking place....

26 May 2005 Now here's a coincidence. No sooner have I finished correcting the first Discworld quizbook (as below), than hero agent Chris Priest reports a German-rights sale of the second one, The Wyrdest Link. O frabjous day ... made doubly frabjous by the arrival of Nature #7041 (26 May 2005) with my little squib for the current "Futures" series. This reveals, at last, the meaning of the well-known sf acronym EGAN.

25 May 2005 At last, I've finished and sent off my proof corrections for the new Gollancz edition of The Unseen University Challenge. This would have been easier if they'd let me update my digital text rather than encouraging the printers to introduce subtle errors (and correction of intentional misspellings) through the magic of OCR. Never mind....

22 May 2005 At last there is a PayPal route for concerned sf people to help with the costs of Robert Sheckley's urgent medical treatment in the Ukraine: see today's update to my current "Runcible" column at The Infinite Matrix.

19 May 2005 Nature sent a PDF proof of my contribution to their new "Futures" series of sf squibs. The layout was nice and the text unaltered, but some hidden hand had changed my title to an enormous spoiler (i.e. the story's actual punchline). Much Langfordian grovelling and pleading ensued, and I hope all will be well when the issue appears on -- they tell me -- 26 May.

12-13 May 2005 Strange doings at The Book Forum, a site new to me, where a senior moderator was accused of plagiarism in his posted book reviews. A forum member pointed out via e-mail that sentences from my brief on-line review of Vonnegut's Galápagos were included without credit in that site's official coverage of the book. Next day the offending review -- and apparently several others -- had vanished. See Book Forum discussion thread....

11 May 2005 To London for the Clarke Award, won by China Miéville's Iron Council.

7 May 2005 Many distractions, bouts of gloom and not enough sleep in the last couple of weeks; but I've done some site updates today. Have also sent an article about John Brosnan's funeral and wake to Chunga.

20 April 2005 More reflected glory: Stu Shiffman points out that my little brother Jon is the subject of an interview in The Onion.

14 April 2005 Today's mail included a posh, leather-bound omnibus volume in French, explained by this e-mail from Patrick Hersant: "I recently had the pleasure to translate R. L. Stevenson's The Wrong Box into French, and I wanted to tell you I am having a copy shipped to you, since I quoted (p. 1334) your delightful pseudo paper on Who Put Back The Clock? -- and, as I am away from Paris at the moment, I did not have the opportunity to add a more personal note to the book. Your essay, I should add, was also at the core of my presentation at a symposium on literary mystification." Who'd have expected a 1991 squib for the Mexicon IV programme book (collected in Up Through an Empty House of Stars) to resurface in such a respectable context as a footnote in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade?

11 April 2005 Today John Brosnan was found dead in his Harrow flat. Oh damn. [See The Runcible Ansible 168.]

10 April 2005 It is the day of the annual ritual in which I commiserate with John M. Ford on being another year closer to the grave, and he does the same for me. Numerologists inform me that today, at last, I am playing with a full deck. • Oh, here's Mr Ford: "My deck is, as ever, crooked as the day is long. Actually, probably longer. Remembering that I have a three of kidneys and a USB port. (Really.) How odd to be living in someone else's future." Indeed.

9 April 2005 One for the historians of sf fandom. In a small fit of energy (i.e. I should really be doing something else) I've been updating the unofficial TransAtlantic Fan Fund website with scanned newsletters and tables of voting in old TAFF elections, and also impulsively registered a domain name: taff.org.uk.

6 April 2005 A happy new UK financial year to all. Which reminds me of some of my publishers' recent amusing pranks: (a) Royalty statement whose total -- thanks to the magic of a spreadsheet whose SUM range has not been updated to include all titles -- is only about half the amount shown by the publisher's own figures, with cheque to match; (b) New speedy payment scheme requiring a purchase order number on invoices, which must be sent at the same time as my material, the only flaw being that the editors are having so much trouble coping with the new system that they can't assign the vital p/o numbers until well after deadline dates; (c) Publisher X sends royalty statements to my agent for every single author who has no royalties due -- but my statement, as we know from bitter experience, will be delayed a further month to save a tiny amount of notional interest on the payment; (d) Publisher Y issues royalty cheque on 31 March, dated "31st April" -- oh how we, and the bank, laughed.

2 April 2005 What a week. Post-Eastercon gloom, a sprained toe and a minor but horribly distracting eye infection ... but nevertheless, I've dealt with the usual on-line news stuff. And can now lie down for a bit.

28 March 2005 Home again. As I'd begun to suspect, the Hugo Awards shortlist announcement was scheduled as an Eastercon event (on Saturday evening), provoking much excited discussion, and the list is now on line here. Gosh wow! Congratulations to all, and many thanks for kind words sent in this direction. Meanwhile I had a good time despite, or because of, failing to appear on any programme items ... although I did toddle along to the Kaffeeklatsch at which Alison Scott and Ian Sorensen promised to initiate neophytes into the secrets of editing fanzines. Those familiar with the deep grammar of Eastercon programme attendance will be unsurprised to learn that everyone who turned up was or had been a fanzine editor.

25 March 2005 Before heading for Hinckley, I need to post another instalment of The Runcible Ansible ... earlier in the day than usual. Reports of visitations of the Hugo Nominations Fairy have been trickling in all week, but it looks as though the official shortlist won't be announced in time for Runcible.

24 March 2005 The Eastercon (Paragon2) looms, and although I won't be around for the whole event, I hope to use my limited time unwisely and make modest whoopee with the usual suspects in the bar. See you there? • Thanks to Pete Young for the offer of a lift. I had far too much fun getting to this place by public transport last year, as remarked in Cloud Chamber.

22 March 2005 Intimations of mortality, number 5,271,009. Here's the 2003-4 issue of my old college magazine The Brazen Nose, in which -- while furtively checking to make sure that all my brazen announcements of book publications and award wins have been listed -- I discover that some mere stripling who matriculated five years after me has just become a bishop. Bloody hell! • Hazel is charmed by the accompanying invitation to update one's details in the Brasenose College Database, where expectations are revealed in the "Title" choice of "Lord / Sir / Dame / Professor / Dr / Mr ..." (though not, as it turns out, Very, Right, or even Slightly Reverend).

20 March 2005 Today, I am hugely cheered to find that (as pointed out by Keith Freeman) the great Paul Di Filippo's "On Books" column in the March Asimov's SF includes an encouraging review of Different Kinds of Darkness. Good stuff....

18 March 2005 Aieee! Another vast e-mail attachment from Mr Pratchett: following my lengthy comments on the earlier draft of Thud!, here's the revised text. I will cautiously say that it's a good one. • Thanks to Chip Hitchcock for pointing out a broken link (I forgot to upload the file) to the Latest Site Additions archive for 2004.

17 March 2005 Good weather for my first excursion to London in many months: a soothing walk, reading a research book with the next SFX column in mind, from Paddington across Hyde Park to the Wellington Memorial and rendezvous with Janice Murray and Alan Rosenthal -- plus, as it turns out, Eve and John Harvey. Alan is in London on Microsofty business, and Janice (hero North American distributor of Ansible) has tagged along so they can both see His Dark Materials on stage. John's unerring nose for pubs leads us towards Victoria and lunch in a place whose proliferation of free whiskey and silly hats gradually conveys to the slowest-witted observer (me) that this is St Patrick's Day. Coo er gosh. Later, a farewell visit to Murder One in Charing Cross Road, whose New Worlds sf cellar will shortly vanish: no room for it in the new premises to which a move is being forced by imminent demolition....

9 March 2005 Thank goodness I managed to push Ansible 212 down the slipway on the 7th (print edition) and 8th (on line). Today, a gigantic e-mail attachment from Terry Pratchett proves to be the beta draft of his new Discworld novel Thud!, sent for the mysterious ritual of "Langfordization". My lips are sealed. I may be gone for some time....

3 March 2005 Among the ongoing irritations of Ansible are the periods when the Glasgow host site refuses uploads for days on end -- "Sorry, there are too many anonymous users ... Access denied" -- until hero sysop Naveed Khan personally reboots the FTP server. So yesterday's updates to the London First Thursday meetings page still appear only on the mirror site.... [Fixed late that evening.]

1 March 2005 A happy St David's Day to you all -- and especial thanks to the surprisingly many people who last year bought Different Kinds of Darkness, The Leaky Establishment and other Langford effusions published by Cosmos Books, as indicated in a cheering Cosmos/Wildside royalty statement this morning.

28 Feb 2005 Kim Huett commends my displacement activity of cataloguing and uploading elderly Langford material, as recorded on the Latest Site Additions page: "A truly admirable piece of work, more than you see the likes of Robert Silverberg do (not that I'm going to tell him as much, I understand he's still miffed about me taking the piss with Lord Valentines Day cards)." I think Bob Silverberg's task would be orders of magnitude greater than mine!

25 Feb 2005 Another bloody awful week. Never mind. Good news is the arrival of my very own copy of Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, the expanded Old Earth Books edition of 2004 (in which one tiny error is the statement that my own extended introduction first appeared in Up Through an Empty House of Stars -- no, no, the longer version really is new to this edition of Guilty). Bad news: am still coughing horrendously, and while this situation persisted a would-be Ansible Information customer -- ignoring all my prior pleas like No House Callers, Black Death Quarantine Area and We Can't Cope With The Following Disk Formats -- turned up on the doorstep with a huge box of disks which inevitably proved to be in one of the Following Formats. Owing to uncontrollable paroxysms I failed to be sufficiently rude at the time, and really don't know what to do with this mass of stuff....

19 Feb 2005 Health report: I suppose I'm better now, but remain feeble and listless from too much coughing over too long a period. Thanks to all who sent good wishes.... The usual site updates have continued, but I've lacked the energy to say a lot here.

12 Feb 2005 Nothing much is happening here on the front page, because I have a filthy cold and other tiresome minor ills, and it's been all I can do to deal with the routine deadlines and updates -- see Latest Site Additions above. More when it happens.

30 January 2005 Exhaustion reigns. At last the fact-checking for Gary Westfahl's sf/fantasy themes encyclopedia is over -- that is, after (like some but by no means all of the associate editors) I'd worked through the 600,000 words of material sent out for comment, it turns out that time is too short for the remaining 200,000 words to be circulated. Fingers are nervously crossed. Meanwhile, as one naturally does when brain-dead, I've been tinkering with the appearance of this site again. There's even a Google search option: see right-hand panel. Please use this awesome power only for good.

28 Jan 2005 Nature is running another series of "Futures" sf squibs, and after a rapid-fire exchange with nice editor Henry Gee (a dozen e-mails in 22 minutes) it seems that I'll be appearing in this august journal again -- as I never did in the long-ago days when I was a mere scientist. The new series, I gather, begins with Ian Stewart on 3 Feb.

15 Jan 2005 Gosh, it's really true: for the first time ever the Hugo nomination ballot is preprinted with my name. (A few others too.) But somehow they've moved my publisher Cosmos Books from Holicong, Pennsylvania, to the UK....