2006 Log

31 December 2006 And a Happy New Year to all. Except for eBay UK's customer support department, whose latest clueless email response tells me that I can "reinstate" my account by paying them money. Since the account is active and in credit, and since my actual complaint (since May 2006) is about being harassed with menacing letters sent by their debt collection agencies to somebody with a different name who must have fraudulently given my address, this is not exactly to the point.

25 December 2006 Let us not be afraid of the obvious: Merry Christmas, everyone! • AnsibleIndex: at last I have found time to convert the manual for Ansible Information's venerable Amstrad PCW book indexing software into a PDF document, and to make the whole package available as a free download. No support requests, please.

22 December 2006 No, I didn't predict (or attempt to predict) J.K. Rowling's newly revealed title for the last Potter book. Not as catchy as the oft-mooted Harry Potter and the Mystic Kettle of Nackledirk.... • Meanwhile, the new SFX has a positive review of that book. Phew. • Speaking of SFX, here are Christmas links to more or less seasonal Langford columns for that magazine in 1998, 1998 again, 1999, 2000 and 2005

20 December 2006 Marcus Rowland's tasteful sf Christmas card is on line. Meanwhile, thanks to all for the actual physical cards that still reach us and go miserably unreciprocated -- Hazel mysteriously prefers to support charities rather than card manufacturers. • Mark Plummer reassures me that one shop in Croydon, Centre of the Fannish Universe, has good taste: Books Etc. "They have a front-of-store display labelled 'Life and Style' and there on a chest-high shelf can be found multiple copies of The End of Harry Potter?, flanked by a small stack of Ben Schott's latest and something called Pimp My Ride. The latter's a little unfortunate; were it not for its presence you'd be snuggling up to the Good Pub Guide 2007 which I'm sure would be altogether more stimulating company."

16 December 2006 Oh, all right. Out of general embarrassment I had avoided mentioning my 15 seconds of fame in the local Reading Evening Post this month, but why shouldn't you all have a giggle? Here it is. The photo was taken in a pub where Martin Hoare had just presented me with the 2006 Hugo. We didn't invite the press -- the camera was Martin's own -- but their spies are everywhere. Mere weeks later I was interviewed by email, and distinctly remember not using such terms as "sci-fi", "obsession", "overwhelming passion", "sci-fi", etc. Though the article is friendly enough, the reporter took care to correct these foolish omissions.

13 December 2006 Modified rapture. My continuing search for on-sale copies of that book was finally rewarded today, after a disappointing rummage through W.H. Smith. Reading's second branch of Waterstone's, measurably more discerning than the first, has one copy! I can die happy now.

11 December 2006 Another month; another Ansible goes down the slipway. • I've been feeling a bit gloomy about the apparent invisibility of that book, having failed to see a single copy for sale here in Reading (where we have two branches of Waterstone's and a Blackwell's specializing in sf/fantasy), while one correspondent was unable to buy it anywhere in book-friendly Oxford. However, there's a reported sighting in Carmarthen, plus mentions at Grumpy Old Bookman (some way down the page) and Scholar's Blog, and a nice first customer review from Amazon.co.uk, so I continue to hope for a few sales.

29 November 2006 At last, a brief Times review of The End of Harry Potter?, whose publication seems until now to have been shrouded in secrecy. Friends make a point of sending breathless email to assure me that their local bookshops have, in fact, no copies. That's what literary friends are for. (The Times link is indirect, leading to a Flash page -- sorry.) • Further research reveals that copies are being offered as Guardian/Waterstone's contest prizes.

13 November 2006 Things are looking up on the Potter front. Malcolm Edwards of Orion -- to whom I'd mentioned the Waterstone's reaction of 8 November -- leapt into action with high-level gunboat diplomacy, and today forwarded their message of capitulation: "THE END OF HARRY POTTER is no longer lit crit at Waterstone's, it will be put in the children's section alongside HP...." Now that's more like it!

10-12 November 2006: Novacon Condensed from my brief report for a fan email list: I had a enjoyable and boozy time in a low-key way, with special thanks to Pete Young for offering a lift at the last minute and sparing me the great tiresomeness of getting to that godforsaken hotel by public transport. Of course we arrived during heavy rain, the perfect setting for my long walk to check in at the overflow (not because the Quality Hotel had overflowed but because I'm still grumpy about their behaviour last year). The upside was that I discovered en route where the local pub, greasy spoon café, off-licence and cash machine actually are. Knowledge which in the days to come was to prove utterly useless, but never mind. • Of course I was hoping to find copies of my new book on sale -- yes, in slavish imitation of the great Peter Weston I have written a book -- and hopes were slightly raised when the author freebies arrived just before I set out on Friday. At the other end, though, ace dealer Rog Peyton crushed my spirits with a prolonged grumble about how his order hadn't appeared despite promises (in blood) of direct delivery to the hotel. In fact it had arrived but got filed by the Quality management in an obscure cloakroom: some traditions never change. The books, representing fully 50% of Rog's order, turned up towards the end of Novacon and sold quickly. Gloat. • The rest was mostly hanging around in the bar with the usual suspects [prolonged fannish namedropping omitted here]. • The first thing I heard at Novacon on Saturday morning was word of Jack Williamson's death. Bad news travels fast, as usual. • Later that day came a long and hugely attended programme item about the future of Eastercons in the wake of the 2007 event's cancellation. There was general approval for a proposed "Eastercon lite" to be called Contemplation and held, er, somewhere: lots of us handed over £45 in hope that a venue would in fact turn up. • What else? Signed a heap of books for that nice Mr Peyton. Drank too much. Talked about the SF Encyclopedia and other exhausting topics. Failed to visit the art show. Handed out Ansible 232 in the rare print edition. Missed the fanzine panel owing to being deep in conversation and not watching the time. Missed Martin Hoare's photo-presentation of the Kiev Eurocon excursion to Chernobyl, having already seen lots of pictures by Eileen Gunn (who went for haunted empty landscapes) and Ellen Datlow (who inclined more towards haunted empty landscapes with sf people standing in front of them). Seeing Martin pass amongst us in a radiation suit made several people suspect a satirical comment on the increasingly unpopular smoking area, divided from the main bar by a barrier of impalpable force consisting solely of air. The usual joke about swimming pools with peeing and non-peeing sections was heard. • The hotel's budget convention food initially included a small range of filled baguettes, shrank to "any flavour you like except cheese & onion", and by Sunday had become "any flavour you like so long as it's tuna". Tried one full restaurant meal with Martin, during which he kept making suspicious comparisons of my blood-dribbling (though only at one end) "medium" steak with his allegedly rare one. Afterwards the word in the bar was: "Everyone who ordered the steak had some kind of problem." • I didn't expect to see the closing ceremony, but Pete Young decided to stick around until after the Nova Awards for fanzine achievement, which went to Sue Mason (artist), Claire Brialey (fan writer), and Banana Wings (fanzine). By then I'd totally forgotten buying some raffle tickets but nevertheless came away with a bottle of plonk, which to Hazel's relief will not be occupying mantelpiece space for very long. An OK weekend which, if one ignores mere pub gatherings, was my first sf convention of 2006. Think of that.

10 November 2006 Copies of that book arrived this afternoon, just as I was about to leave for Novacon 36. Looks very nice, too -- I hadn't expected the metallic-foil title lettering. More later.

9 November 2006 Publication day. In my foolhardy way, I wandered down to the Reading Waterstone's and made diffident noises about the possibility of arranging some "Local Author -- Signed Copies" promotion. My bookshop contact consulted her database and reported chillingly that they had no plans to order the book: "It's down as literary criticism which is the kiss of death." Everything went black and I don't remember any more.

8 November 2006 More breaking news about That HP Book! Following the release of Ansible 232 yesterday, a kindly reader (Petrea Mitchell) reports that Amazon claims to have despatched her copy -- and from Amazon I learn at last what the final cover looks like. You never know: one day I might even have a copy of my own....

6 November 2006 Who would have expected a new review, at this late date, of The Space Eater?

2 November 2006 Following the Convoy cancellation, there's been much frenzied discussion on the Eastercon mailing list and elsewhere. A replacement event, probably smaller-scale than the traditional Easter sf convention, is likely to be announced soon. Keep watching the skies, or at any rate the Ansible Links page....

31 October 2006 Yes: Convoy, the 2007 UK Eastercon, really has been cancelled. The initial statement on their website was slightly ambiguous, seeming to leave the possibility that the event might just move from Liverpool -- but no. All those determined whingers who went on and bloody on about their dislike of the Adelphi Hotel (where I've enjoyed several fine conventions) have got what they presumably wanted: no Eastercon for 2007.

26 October 2006 More email from Jo Fletcher: a finished copy of that Harry Potter book has been sighted in the Gollancz office! Will the author get to see it? No, this is the one "to send to the lawyer for the final decision!!"

24 October 2006 It is said -- by Jo Fletcher of Gollancz, though not with total certainty -- that the elusive Harry Potter book could well appear on 9 November. So I'd better go to Novacon 36 after all, hadn't I?

21 October 2006 A day out. Some SFX forum regulars were meeting in Oxford to wander the touristy bits, attempt to detect residual traces of Tolkien in Exeter College, and soak up the aura of Inklingness -- among other things -- in the Eagle & Child pub. ("There goes C.S. Lewis. It must be Tuesday.") Somehow there was also an unscheduled stopover in Blackwell's. All good fun despite a huge and menacing police presence in the town centre, with as many as four mounted officers clustered at some street corners. Had they been warned of sinister sf gatherings today? Juliet E. McKenna finally asked a policewoman the obvious question and was told: "Animal rights protesters." We never saw any. • Hours later, when the SFX group had dispersed, I headed for the Woodstock Road and the Oxford University SF Group wake for long-time member Mike Damesick. The pub also proved to be the venue of choice for Stephen Briggs and his Discworld theatre group, who were limbering up for a rehearsal (or something else to do with their coming revival of Feet of Clay) with beer and a hard-fought game of conkers. "What are you doing here?" said Mr Briggs suspiciously, just as I said the same. Five minutes after the troupe had left, past members of OUSFG began to appear. The usual suspects. I had to leave dismayingly early because I'd started to cough again, but honour was -- I hope -- satisfied. Bye-bye, Mike.

18 October 2006 Continuing lack of updates here because I've been incredibly busy, and now I have a filthy cold.

6 October 2006 A large bottle of expensive olive oil arrived this morning, courtesy of The Independent. No, they haven't taken me on as food critic: apparently I won a prize for doing the Difficult Pink Crossword in their Saturday edition while on holiday. • What of the Harry Potter book? Although no one at Gollancz is telling me anything, hero literary agent Chris Priest managed on 2 October to extract the information that the book is with the printers. Then Graham Sleight, sf critic and editor-in-waiting of Foundation, visited Reading today and revealed that when enquiring about a review copy he'd been told that the publication date was late November. But officially I've heard nothing.

2 October 2006 Gollancz have sent a pile of copies of The Wyrdest Link in German translation -- from which I learn to my delight that I am now the author of that erudite work Was ist ein Troll-Striptease?

27 September 2006 So we went off to North Wales for a while (Harlech was in the grip of a terrifying daddy-long-legs plague), and I've been catching up ever since. • It was a real shock to learn that the incredibly talented John M. Ford has died. We shared a birthday -- as emerged at Minicon in 1998, where a joint party with cake somehow happened and led to annual exchanges of silly greetings -- but he was four years younger. Brrrr. • David L. Russell sent these samples of the Cadbury's chocolate flavours available Down Under, which so far I have been too nervous to try. • Chris Priest is wildly excited about the website for the film of The Prestige • Greg Pickersgill and Jim Linwood, inspired by the now almost complete Checkpoint newsletter archive, are doing the same for Checkpoint's predecessor Skyrack. • Although I dealt with the proofs in good time, I still don't know whether the Harry Potter book will appear in October as scheduled. Mysterious silence prevails at Gollancz. Will I make it to Novacon 36? Will I be signing copies there? God knows.... • Three hearty boos for the DHL courier service, which left "couldn't deliver" notes on each of the three days before we got back from Wales and then answered the phone with "Ha ha, too late, it's gone back to our Lack Of Service Centre and will be returned to sender." Most outfits allow for the possibility of people being away for a week or two: with this lot, three days and you're out. No clue regarding who tried to send me what.

13 September 2006 Look then on this picture, and on this.... • The SF Encyclopedia has been taking up unreasonable amounts of time, again; and just when I'd vaguely begun to wonder whether the schedule for the Harry Potter book had slipped, Gollancz rushed me page proofs and asked for a quick turnaround. It had to be bloody quick, because I'm taking a short break away from email. • Martin Hoare says he's somehow managed to smuggle the Hugo Award through layers of airport security, and has it safe in England. That's a relief: with current levels of paranoia I'd fully expected to hear that the trophy had departed this earth via a controlled detonation....

6 September 2006 In Typo Veritas: M.K. Digre reports a perfect line from spam email -- "This lottery was promoted and sponsored by Sotware Companies ..."

27 August 2006 Once again, many thanks! To the kindly Hugo voters for number 27; to Martin Hoare for collecting the award at LAcon IV last night; to Bridget Bradshaw and Geri Sullivan for representing me in the categories where I wasn't so lucky; to Hazel for resignedly clearing a little more mantelpiece space.... Believe me, it's still a thrill. The Plain People of Fandom: 27!? Is this a record? Myself: I was famous for less than fifteen minutes at the Hugo ceremony, until Charlie Brown of Locus won his 27th rocket and drew level again.

19 August 2006 Yesterday, as the Discworld Convention began, I hastily added some content and a number of links to Thog.org -- now the home of Thog's Masterclass. The Live Thog's Masterclass presentation (DWcon 2004 version) is at last on line! Yes, I do feel guilty about dropping out as a DWcon guest. Being deafly inept at multi-person panels or anything needing audience interaction, I reckoned that I owed the convention a new solo talk of reasonable length ... but this year I was just too stressed and overworked to write one. Apologies.

17 August 2006 I've been brooding over the fact that -- as a correspondent pointed out on 7 August -- the Thog.org.uk domain has been seized by some johnny-come-latelies called the Tower Hamlets Opportunity Group. What a ridiculously contrived acronym, to be sure. Thog.com leads by mysterious redirections to an Australian jobs site, and several other variants have been registered. Who are all these would-be Thogs? While the opportunity still remained, I rushed to register Thog.org, and must now think of something to put there besides the usual placeholder....

13 August 2006 Distractions: Pam Wells (once upon a time a TAFF winner) has been visiting us, lured southward by a party in the idyllic depths of Wiltshire. This gathering of aged, clapped-out sf fans was hosted by John Nielsen Hall and his lady; attendees besides Pam and myself were Graham & Pat Charnock, Rob Jackson, and Ian & Janice Maule -- plus virtual US presences (via an extremely wobbly video link) from Rich Coad's simultaneous barbecue in the USA. A good time was had. Thanks to all.

7 August 2006 Help! Ansible's resident literary barbarian Thog has occasionally shown troubling signs of independent existence, but I hadn't expected to discover that he has his own website.

26 July 2006 It continues to be too hot, and hot weather always slows down my website maintenance. Why, I remember that during the entire heatwave of 1976 I failed to update this site at all. Which reminds me that Graham Sleight, mindful of SF Encyclopedia trials and tribulations, sent the editors this link to an Onion story about "the competition".

25 July 2006 On the occasion of her birthday today, Hazel has requested no publicity and so I mustn't say a word.

13 July 2006 I know, I know, the site hasn't been updated much in the last month (although there was of course a July Ansible). General unwellness and collapse after the stresses of That Book Project; am feeling a good deal better now, partway through the second course of antibiotics. But already new horrors confront me....

15 June 2006 Today's remarkable blurb claim appears in the press release accompanying The Return of Arthur by Alan Fenton (from Dovecote Press, whose website indicates that "clients" pay production costs). "The legendary story of King Arthur and Camelot has been well-documented for centuries but no-one, until now, has retold the Arthurian legend for modern times." The incredulous italics are mine.

12 June 2006 Another anniversary. Thirty years! I don't know how Hazel stood it so long....

10 June 2006 How jolly that Gollancz should send email about that recent delivery, complimenting me on a particularly clean MS that requires minimal copyediting. How even jollier that -- according to hero agent Chris Priest -- the payment due on delivery arrived this morning. Is this a record?

6 June 2006 At last, I have a nice big box of author's copies of The Wyrdest Link, the spiffy new hardback version. Meanwhile, for those with a morbid fondness for 25-year-old fanzine writing, Rob Jackson has spontaneously converted the first chapter of my long-ago TAFF report into digital form, and the full collected text is now on line: The TransAtlantic Hearing Aid.

4 June 2006 Here's an offer I almost can't refuse, from the London Review of Books: for a mere £110 they will advertise Ansible in two successive issues and thus vastly increase, um, the work I do running a free newsletter that carries no paid ads.... No points for market research, but it's nice to get a free copy of the LRB.

31 May 2006 DELIVERY DAY. And, by a stupefying coincidence, the thing is now delivered. Much lunchtime celebration with Jo Fletcher and Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz, at a Greek restaurant close enough to Orion House that even I could be trusted to push Jo's wheelchair. Later we had their publicity man Jon Weir for dessert. As it were. Gibber, gibber. Am I really allowed to put all those Harry Potter reference works back on the shelf at last?
• Now is the time to realign my over-active worry lobes to focus on the Interzone column due tomorrow, the book review for SFX a few days hence, and of course the neglected cyclopean horror of the SF Encyclopedia....

30 May 2006 Well, it's finished. Final tweaks yesterday, and now I print the thing out to carry into London tomorrow.

27 May 2006 <plokta.con pi> was good fun, although (having a train to catch) I cravenly didn't stay around for the late-night announcement of the TAFF winner. Who is ... Bridget Bradshaw. Congratulations!

25 May 2006 A symbolic moment! Every day for months, having done my stint on that Harry Potter nonfiction project, I've added the latest date and word count to a WordPerfect comment at the head of the working document. Today, as I was about to enter a count which is at last greater than specified in my Gollancz contract ... I couldn't, because the comment had reached the maximum allowed size. They Are Watching Me.
• One reference book that I didn't consult until the very end, for fear of being unduly influenced, was W. Frederick Zimmerman's Unauthorized Harry Potter Book 7 News -- available as an e-book, so no need to worry about delivery times. But Amazon.com (after insisting on re-entry of my full credit card details) smugly revealed that they won't sell e-books to smelly foreigners in Europe. Meanwhile, Amazon.co.uk had withdrawn e-book sales altogether. Enter hero sf fan Rich Coad, who bought a copy in the USA and emailed it to me -- whereupon it emerged that the PDF text has such ferociously silly DRM protection that it can't be read on any computer but the one that downloaded it, except via an "activation" process that required me to do complicated things on both my computer and (this was the tricky part) Rich Coad's. Foiled again. Fortunately, a query to W. Frederick Zimmerman himself led to the arrival of an unprotected copy before I lost my temper. Phew.
• It's time I started getting out of the house a bit more, and I'm hoping to wander into London for <plokta.con pi> on Saturday 27 May. See you there?

20 May 2006 What goes around, comes around. The US government has recently been making noises about doing exactly what John Sladek imagined in "The Great Wall of Mexico" (1973). Although this story still bites, someone needs to tell them that he meant it as wild satire....

19 May 2006 Sometimes a news story touches the hearts of so many Ansible readers that I'm inundated with reports. Thanks to all for the multiple link just added to the links page as Darlingtonians of Gor (19 May).... PS: I toyed with this subject in a 1998 column for SFX, and also drew on the wonders of Gor when composing the SFX Bad Sex Awards feature (reprinted in The SEX Column) a few years later:
• "John Norman's Gor books famously argue that sex is better when women are helpless slaves, violated against their will [whereupon they discover that their will is not what they thought]. 'I think for a moment, you attempted to resist the slave orgasm,' someone says accusingly after a discreet rape in Vagabonds of Gor. Victim: 'I will not do so again! I do not even want to do so again! I now know what it is to yield! I know that resistance is forbidden me, but I do not even want to resist now! I want rather to behave as is fitting for me, as what I am, a slave!' The most uppity feminist can be reduced to this state by a sufficiency of tough loving from the men of Gor."

18 May 2006 Despite profound apathy regarding the film of The Da Vinci Whatsit (here's the Guardian review), I rather like this image of riotous protest. Also the Chaucer's Blog version....

16 May 2006 Liberation Day for Hazel. After complex calculations involving annual leave, flexitime, the Queen's birthday and the phase of the moon, the Civil Service decreed that Hazel must leave the building at 12:30 precisely, not a minute more and not a minute less. It was therefore no surprise to find her still frantically searching dispopulated "JobCentrePlus" offices for someone who'd sign for her chip-&-PIN security pass, which must be properly handed over on penalty of being flung into the Tower of London. "It's like one of those dreams where everything vanishes and you can't get away," she wailed. Around 1pm we gave up and went for a celebratory lunch at Sweeney & Todd (specialists in savoury pies; however did you guess?), returning to secure the formal manumission at 2:30pm or thereabouts. I don't think we'll be putting in an invoice for the extra couple of hours. Hazel is still boggled by all the flowers, cards, book tokens etc from bereft colleagues.... Lots of thanks to all who sent congratulations.
• Meanwhile, the accursed Harry Potter book is very nearly finished. After too much cross-eyed perusal of too many relevant texts, I've begun to feel a certain sympathy for Lord Voldemort.

12 May 2006 Major upheaval in the Langford lifestyle! For a year or more Hazel has been following up Civil Service invitations to apply for voluntary early retirement, only to be scornfully rejected -- but today it finally worked. I wheeled a suitcase into Reading town centre to haul away all the personal stuff she'd accumulated at the office. Hazel has to go back to her life of Job Centre toil on Monday, on Tuesday for the morning only ... and then, never again. Can such things be? When can I retire?
• Better news since the previous posting. Phil Stephensen-Payne notes that the content of the lost www.brianaldiss.com is still on line here; Mike Moorcock assures me that the resurrected Miscellany site will be ever so wonderful; and www.larryniven.org has been renewed.

9 May 2006 Overhauling the Ansible links page sometimes feels like painting the Forth Bridge ... oh, all right, a miniature Forth Bridge. During recent revisions I noticed that Brian Aldiss's website has expired and been replaced with unlikely content; Larry Niven's has also gone; and Moorcock's Miscellany, taken down by hacker attack, is now being cautiously rebuilt behind the armour of password protection. Who's next? Will I regret asking?

1 May 2006 I forgot (because my author copies haven't arrived yet, hem hem) that the superbly wonderful Discworld quizbook The Wyrdest Link was reissued in April as a Gollancz hardback.

30 April 2006 Keith Brooke has reviewed the Cosmos/Ansible E-ditions reissue of John Sladek's The Steam-Driven Boy.

28 April 2006 Over the years I've been quoted in some strange and far-flung places, but never before in the Wall Street Journal (8 April; clipping just received). An obituary piece titled "Stanislaw Lem, Chilly Satirist" contains the unexpected aside "Lem, according to British science-fiction critic David Langford, 'takes a consistently bleak view of the limitations of human cognition.'" Did I really say that? Apparently Martin Morse Wooster -- for it is he -- found this line in my Solaris entry for Gary Westfahl's 2005 encyclopedia of sf themes.

27 April 2006 Yesterday was a little crowded. All through the morning I struggled to pass a particular wordcount landmark for the book in progress: 80% complete! Then I travelled to London for the Arthur C.Clarke Award presentation. The ACCA bar was acoustic hell, with conversation nearly impossible, but bad news travels with hideous clarity and I trembled to hear of possible legal problems with the work in progress. Oh dear. This project was supposed to be terrifically confidential, but Gollancz had not only blown the gaff to the book trade in the latest Orion catalogue (July 2006 to January 2007) but put it on line in PDF format. So the murder is out: I'm toiling on a nonfiction volume whose working title -- thoughtfully provided by the publisher -- is The End of Harry Potter. After which, guessing the source of those legal menaces is left as an exercise for the student.
• As for the Clarke Award, Geoff Ryman was the popular winner with Air. The trophy takes the form of a single bookend (there's also a hefty cheque, £2006 this year), and Geoff joins the select ranks of authors with two very special bookends -- the others being Pat Cadigan and China Miéville. Paul Kincaid, retiring after long service as administrator, also received a surprise bookend. Bookends were everywhere. On the train home I got out the random detective novel I'd thrown into my bag, and almost immediately read about a corpse "lying on the floor of his study with his head battered in. A blood-stained marble bookend was lying nearby." What would Charles Fort or Arthur Koestler have said?

20 April 2006 Still busy, busy, busy. Here's a link (from Gary Farber) to little brother Jon's latest vast and ramshackle triumph. And another (from Making Light) to a wondrous Edward Gorey pastiche, The Throbblefoot Aquarium. Which reminds me to upload the Goreyesque header which Dan Steffan drew for my silly 1999 fan article "Beachcombings". Thanks again, Dan.

10 April 2006 Here we go again, pushing forward into the almost unimaginable future. Thanks to everyone who sent birthday greetings today -- including the sf author with an infallible mnemonic, John M. Ford, born on the same date though not (young whippersnapper) the same year.

1 April 2006 No fooling: The Infinite Matrix returns in another farewell performance which includes an unexpected instalment of The Runcible Ansible....

30 March 2006 Aha! Here on Kathryn Cramer's site is the contents list for her and David Hartwell's Year's Best SF 11, confirming that my brief Nature squib made the final cut. Embarrassingly, this was the only new piece of fiction I published in 2005. Must try harder.

29 March 2006 More bad timing: I took a week's recovery break in North Wales and so missed the opportunity for synchronized gloating over the Hugo nominations list. Certainly I hadn't dared hope to appear in three categories! Many thanks to the superbly discerning voters. As for North Wales, it was wet, wetter than a very very wet thing, so wet that our train home on the 28th was in serious danger of being cancelled owing to floods at Dyfi Junction. At the eleventh hour, this threat was apparently dealt with by squadrons of heroic men with blotting-paper.

11 March 2006 Has it really taken this long for the after-effects of that bloody cold to dwindle? Well, here at last are some overdue uploads. Connoisseurs of awardsmanship will appreciate the supreme cool of putting new Langfordiana on show a day too late to affect anyone's Hugo nominations. (Actually it just happened that way....)

5 March 2006 Busy, busy, busy. And now I have a foul cold. Not much on-line updating has happened, except for Checkpoint issues (rekeyed by others) and a trickle of new items in Ansible Links. So it goes.

17 February 2006 Last night was the Gollancz (or rather, the Orion Group) authors' party, held in the distinctly awe-inspiring surroundings of the Very Big Room at the Royal Academy -- hung about with innumerable paintings by terrifyingly familiar names. Most of the literati in attendance were swift to recognize the original Laughing Cavalier, and then lapsed into an air of decidedly hazy familiarity. Champagne flowed with impressive abandon. Malcolm Edwards explained that it was his responsibility to divide his time equally among all the Orion authors present, and that according to his calculations he'd be able to devote just 40 seconds to each of them, a conversational lacuna which could be neatly filled by his repeated explanation of ... GO TO "HIS RESPONSIBILITY". Besides the other usual Gollancz suspects like Jo Fletcher (still wheelchair-bound owing to "a zombie toe") and Jon Weir, familiar faces included Steve Baxter, Steve Jones, Maggie Noach, Geoff Ryman, Chris Priest, Terry Pratchett, Adam Roberts, and Justina Robson. On the way out, they gave us weighty little goodie bags which everyone expected to contain the usual remainders, but also included exotic chocolates and a tiny bottle of Moet & Chandon. Coo er gosh.

14 February 2006 Jonathan Vos Post sends a quotation: "My plight drove me to the typewriter. I sat before it... Sometimes an idea floated harmlessly through the room. It was like a small white bird. It meant no ill-will. It only wanted to help me, dear little bird. But I would strike at it, hammer it out across the keyboard, and it would die on my hands." (John Fante, Ask the Dust, new Ecco Press/Harper Perennial edition, 2006) And then you have to clean up all those feathers.

12 February 2006 At last, a review of one of the reissued John Sladek collections which Chris Priest and I spent so much time putting together for Cosmos/Ansible E-editions in 2004 and 2005: here's Adam Roberts in Infinity Plus.

7 February 2006 Today I heard about this mysteriously unapt Amazon editorial review (scroll down) of He Do the Time Police in Different Voices. I don't remember including any merry sf parodies that fit the description: 'Ghosts from the Holocaust whisper, shout, moan and weep throughout these fragmented fictional "recollections" of the Vilna ghetto between 1937 and 1944.'

4 February 2006 Argh! Much havoc at Langford Net HQ owing to hard drive failure this morning. Nothing actually lost, I hope, but quantities of recent email are stranded in the intricate deltas and tributaries of our infallible backup system. Normal service will be, or not.

26 January 2006 Brother Jon's new stage show gets vast coverage in the Chicago Sun-Times....

21 January 2006 Have you just been invited to join a Google Groups list called "the BLIT group" and described as "For the discussion of basilisks, including BLITs and other similar images"? This may possibly be legit and well-intended, but I'm not happy that the group description continues: "For mor information contact David Langford at ..." No one asked permission to give my name and and email address as the group's official contact. The invitation to join supposedly came from atomicthumbs |at| gmail.com: I don't know whether the unnamed person behind this ID is in fact responsible. Any enlightenment would be welcome. Later: According to Google Groups, the group called BLIT does exist, but with only one member and no messages.

16 January 2006 At last, here are copies of Gary Westfahl's three-volume The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works and Wonders (2005). This is actually divided into what the Preface calls "the proscribed number" of 400 essays on Themes (2 vols) and 200 on Classic Works (1 vol): the Wonders were capriciously added to the title by the publisher. As a member of the advisory editorial board (with a tiny namecheck on the back cover) who wrote 46 of those thousand-word essays, I was getting rather fretful that other contributors all seemed to get their copies months ago. Tranquillity now returns, accompanied by a measure of smugness.

14 January 2006 Gordon Brown's call for a national day of British patriotism seems somehow un-British. The tradition is to be smugly, even insufferably, conscious that it's a great country, but not to brag about this in public like all those frightfully volatile foreigners. I wonder whether the Chancellor is familiar with the episode of Kipling's Stalky & Co. in which fiercely but silently patriotic schoolboys are horrified to have sententious chauvinism preached at them by an overweight MP. The latter's fate, which Gordon Brown may yet share, is to be called a Flopshus Cad, an Outrageous Stinker, and a Jelly-bellied Flag-flapper.

13 January 2006 More wasted time. A couple of years ago I wrote three longish essays for the proposed US Dictionary of Literary Bibliography volume covering "20th Century American SF/Fantasy Writers 1900-1950". What I had to say about James Branch Cabell, John Myers Myers and Thorne Smith was approved in May 2004 by the editor F. Brett Cox -- who, after many delays and urgings of patience, announced mere days ago that he was withdrawing from the project. A query to the publishers brought swift reassurance that there had been no final contract, that they'd never heard of me or seen my essays, that "There is no---and at the moment is no plan for a---volume on Science Fiction and Fantasy writers", and that anyone expecting a kill fee for long toil in good faith must be living in a fantasy world. Other contributors have fared no better: Richard Bleiler suggests that we should all get together and publish a collection of the material that was actually written. My suggested title is The Dustbins of Parnassus.

7 January 2006 Ansible 222 went out yesterday. A couple of small corrections to the email and first-run print editions: the URL of The Infinite Matrix was misprinted as www.theinfinitematrix.net rather than www.infinitematrix.net, and this non-HTML text gave only the front page at www.balaams-ass.com (an innocuous piano-tuner site) without the deep link to its buried C.S. Lewis rant. "Ahah! A wolf in sheep's clothing!" said Colin Smythe when the way to the latter was revealed unto him. The outraged passage quoted in Ansible is on this linked page.

4 January 2006 A bit of good cheer: kindly editor David G. Hartwell wants to include my 2005 Nature squib "New Hope for the Dead" in Year's Best SF #11.