31 December 2008 After a cold I usually suffer from a prolonged and tiresome cough, which is only just beginning to lessen. So: not a lot of glitteringly witty and festive postings in recent days. However, I did play around with a new scanner to the extent of very nearly completing the web archive of my first ever fanzine (co-edited with Kevin Smith), Drilkjis. It doesn't seem that long since our first issue in 1976.... Happy New Year! I don't know whether I dare make any resolutions.
25 December 2008 Only a obsessive loon would spare time to update his website on Christmas morning just to repeat general good wishes to all. Reader, I am that obsessive loon! Jon's "unsuitable" 1970s Christmas card drawings -- see 18 December below -- caused our mother to protest that he should draw a nice funny robin instead. "Who does she think I am?" he expostulated on the back of an old Mekons flyer, and added the following (never before published!):
24 December 2008 The cold has ceased to be a bother, thank goodness, and so have other tiresome afflictions (notably the infected toe that started with a puny blister at Novacon and -- no, you don't want to know, but I was having Pobble nightmares). Seasonal shopping and family visits completed at last. Hazel and I wish you all a grossly indulgent Christmas, an implausibly prosperous New Year, and -- if your preferences should lie in that direction -- a heartfelt "Bah! Humbug!"
18 December 2008 I have a cold and am feeling a very long way from dynamic. Here as a feeble gesture of festivity is a piece of Christmas-card artwork drawn by brother Jon (the rock star, for it is he) something like 30 years ago. 'Tis the season to be jolly:
7 December 2008 This time, after a false alarm in early November, Forrest J Ackerman really has died -- on the night of 4 December. I'm glad he made it to, and past, his 92nd birthday on 24 November. He'd been calmly ready to go for weeks, but it's still sad to see the end of a fannish legend. My email this weekend has contained more reports -- by an order of magnitude -- than I received for the death of any other sf notable this year, including Michael Crichton.
4 December 2008 Following my warning of 2 December, I've just been told by the Eastercon committee that they've had a rethink and are delaying the price rise until midnight on 29 December. Until then, you can still join for £50 (full adult rate). A good PR move, I think.
3 December 2008 Some accumulated links. A very British panacea; Bookshop signage; Genuinely charming insect animation; Shed signage; Giles Coren's email about being subbed provokes a suitable YouTube response; Underground signage. (Thanks to CIX, BoingBoing, Inthebar.)
2 December 2008 The time is out of joint, O cursèd spite.... Here's a rare public service announcement. Before going to press with the December Ansible, I checked the 2009 Eastercon website and (some days earlier) asked the committee if any price rise was on the way. Ansible went out yesterday and today they helpfully tell me that -- although as I write their website still says nothing about this -- adult membership is rising to £55 and supporting to £30 on Friday 5 December. Better get a move on if you want to go and haven't yet joined. [Later: a stay of execution! See 4 December entry.]
28 November 2008 Not a lot has been happening. I missed the one and only BSFA 50th-anniversary party in London two days ago, because of a hole in my foot. (Small, unspectacular, not much bigger than the original blister, but tiresomely failing to heal. The resources of medical science were invoked today. Fingers are crossed, but not -- because it's just too painful -- toes.) Amazing Chris Priest revelations! David Malki's Wondermark is a very silly artefact. Browsing the archive, I've linked to some examples.
21 November 2008 Early copies received of John Grant's The City in These Pages (PS Publishing), with an introduction by me me me! Also here: Interzone 219 with another of those strange Langford photos (taken, as usual, by Hazel).
19 November 2008 A few photos from Novacon.
14 November 2008 I feel the distant siren call of Novacon. Just received New Scientist with the special sf feature containing my all too short Incandescence review. Meanwhile, SFX wants a quickie appreciation of Michael Crichton ... so I'd better take the palmtop to Novacon. Hubble sense of wonder The future of warfare, 1916
4 November 2008 Yesterday was another Ansible publication day. Following the mention of Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate and sf fan, readers are reminding me of his 1978 paper on The Theory of Interstellar Trade: "This paper extends interplanetary trade theory to an interstellar setting. It is chiefly concerned with the following question: how should interest charges on goods in transit be computed when the goods travel at close to the speed of light? A solution is derived from economic theory, and two useless but true theorems are proved." Remember Rover in The Prisoner?
1 November 2008 Just when I thought I'd finished adding photos to the Welsh signage album, hordes of friends are sending links to this fine specimen which I wish I dared steal from the BBC. Later: here's another one, via Fran Dowd. Things I ought to be doing: finishing Ansible 256, reading and reviewing Robert Rankin's latest novel for SFX, helping Hazel pickle her vast crop of radish pods, and making heaps of notes for the Terrifying New Project Whose Contract Has Yet To Be Signed. But, frankly, I feel lazy today. Instead, here's a castle visible (admittedly in the distance) from our North Wales retreat:
27 October 2008 The old, old story: we were away from home and email, returning to find a ton of post and 1,700+ messages in the inbox. Then came deadline panic with the SFX column and a great deal of agonizing about whether to accept the commission for a proposed nonfiction tome which will bring in some welcome cash but has a terrifyingly tight schedule. You may hear more of this. Meanwhile, here's a slightly eccentric selection of holiday photos showing signage in North Wales!
15 October 2008 Things are crowding in on me right now; expect no further postings here for a week or so.
11 October 2008 It's Brother Jon's birthday. I'll drink to that.
10 October 2008 It took me a little while to recover from Kettering (a small but intense event) and Greg Egan (a small but intense review, already sent in and accepted by New Scientist). Next, er, something else. Updates here will be infrequent for much of October. Signage. An alternative to garden gnomes. I never thought I'd feel nostalgic for the Millennium Bug.
3 October 2008 Another month, another Ansible. Please imagine a tremendously witty posting here: I haven't time to write it because I'm off to a mini-convention in Kettering. Homework en route: reading Greg Egan's latest novel Incandescence, review to appear in a New Scientist special planned for mid-November.
24 September 2008 I've been posting occasional links to photos uploaded to Facebook -- as on 21 September, below -- and have now put a backdated list of these links on the Photographs page. This, as usual, was done because I should be doing something else.
21 September 2008 "Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!"
13 September 2008 A useful product in the Viking stationery catalogue: "niceday HAZARD WARNING TAPE". I imagine this as carrying a bold black-and-yellow design of smiley faces, to be stuck across the doors of shops where there's a hazard of being told with hideous insincerity to have a nice day. (Please don't anyone spoil this by revealing that "niceday" is just a brand name.)
9 September 2008 Paul Barnett points out that Thog has got me into trouble again. Another Tom Disch memorial (via carl juarez); and a very late Algis Budrys obit (Guardian).
5 September 2008 The glass is half full: my latest short story "Gigatech" is in this week's issue of Nature rather than the slightly more obscure sister magazine Nature Physics! But there's a half-empty side to things too: once again I have no new fiction forthcoming, which means the titanic effort of actually ... Thanks to Dave Lally and others who sent a scenic postcard from Parcon (the Czech/Slovak national convention) in Plzen or Pilsen -- with fervent if slightly wobbly endorsements of the very great wonderfulness of Pilsner Urquell beer, clearly the essential primum mobile of this event.
1 September 2008 Can such things be? Publisher admits errors in 'damaging' age banding row (Guardian). The brave little tortoise (YouTube). Hazel's purple potato crop (first instalment):
23 August 2008 An exchange with Diana Wynne Jones about the Notoagebanding campaign. Diana: "My agent kept trying to call this site Notoa Gebanding and couldn't decide whether it was German or Japanese." Me: "I think Notoa Gebanding must be a magical realist working in Botswana." Diana: "Of COURSE he/she is!" So now you know.
19 August 2008 The traditional newspaper distrust for new-fangled electronic media goes back further than I thought. Once upon a time, complimentary theatre tickets would come with a covering note like this: "Dear Sir, The Management of the ------ Theatre will be much obliged if you will very kindly co-operate with them in safeguarding the enclosed invitation from being used for the purpose of broadcasting a notice of the play from any station of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The invitation is intended to meet the convenience of legitimate journalism, exclusive of broadcasting." Dated 10 October 1929 and quoted in Ego: The Autobiography of James Agate (1935) -- where Agate added, "The quarrel is dead and buried, largely owing to a letter to The Times signed by a dozen of the best-known theatre-managers who gallantly came forward to uphold wireless dramatic criticism, and to The Times's leading article on the subject." But in 1929, there was a fearful social gulf between "legitimate journalism" and anything involving electrons.
12 August 2008 One Worldcon programme item was to be a demonstration of the forgotten art of mimeographing a fanzine, and they asked me (among others) for a one-page PDF contribution. Here it is.
10 August 2008 Here are the Hugo results, and it is even as I predicted! After so many years of my weird lucky streak, this is actually something of a relief. Congratulations to that nice Mr Scalzi and all the other winners.
6 August 2008 Well, here I am not attending the World SF Convention. The official Langford party line is that I can't afford it, but costs -- while terrifying -- aren't the whole story. Alas, the only part of any convention that I still enjoy is one-to-one socializing, since it's too much of a strain (thanks to my lousy hearing) to follow programme items. Even informal conversation gets difficult when a comfortable group of, say, two to six people expands to a dozen or more. Throw in the extraordinary feeling of dread that overcame me in the run-up to my last appearance at a Hugo ceremony, and the staunch efforts of the War On Tourism to remove any trace of enjoyability from flying, and ... well, I'm really very happy to let Martin Hoare represent me in the year when I probably lose a Hugo to John Scalzi. Still I hope everyone who makes it to Denver enjoys desperate fun, even John Scalzi. No To Age Banding: Diana Wynne Jones pushed this campaign in a response to Ansible 253 (to appear in the September issue), and incidentally persuaded me to sign up. Roger Ebert: "Fanzines beget blogs" (via Moshe Feder) Boy Scout Atomic Energy Merit Badge (via Bruce Townley) -- I don't think this was on offer when I was a Scout in old South Wales long, long ago. [Later: this proved inspirational.]
19 July 2008 Another bottle of vintage champagne in the post! I must have won the Independent crossword again. Still haven't drunk last month's bottle. What can we celebrate?
18 July 2008 That was quick: there is now a Langford presence at AnthologyBuilder, yet another enterprise which is not going to make me rich. One story available, another in the pipeline, more when I have time. (Any requests?) Meanwhile, I've updated this site's page of the photos which mysteriously adorn my Interzone news column.
17 July 2008 I'm trying to sign up with AnthologyBuilder and make selected Langford stories available for custom anthologization. This is by popular demand, to the extent that a few of the Milford UK workshop crowd want to assemble anthologies of Milford stories -- so I've submitted my very first, "Serpent Eggs", as workshopped in 1977 (bloody hell!), rewritten and sold in 1994, and since reprinted a few times. Verity Stob's Doctor Who and the moody Dane. Thog's Romance Masterclass (via Janice Gelb): "... nor torture so my flesh with the stirring beauty of rosebuds and cream mounds ..."
12 July 2008 One of today's chores was bringing the Books Received list up to date, in pathetic hope of tiny Amazon affiliate fees. (Here the doorbell rings. Oh no, not another review book just when I'd finished? No, even worse: it's the Jehovah's Witnesses.) One mild surprise: Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: Voyage to Venus -- Part 1 as an audio CD adaptation. What, no actual Frank Hampson artwork? But I suppose it's hardly more perverse than all those live-action films based on comic strips. One moment of paranoia: Stephen Donaldson's Fatal Revenant, a hardback I was sure I'd received and even reviewed a year ago. Aha, not a senior moment after all: the accompanying publicity sheet is about (but contains no ISBN for) the new trade paperback. Lastly, a further illustration of the infinite expansibility of J.R.R. Tolkien, whose On Fairy-stories is familiar as an essay that once needed to be packaged with the story "Leaf by Niggle" to make even a slim volume (Tree and Leaf). No room for "Leaf by Niggle" here! After the editorial introduction by Verilyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson, pages 27-84 are occupied by the essay itself, with paragraphs severely numbered in preparation for what is to come. An "Editors' Commentary" (pp85-121) is followed by "The History of 'On Fairy-Stories'" (pp122-158) under such subheadings as "The Evidence", "The Background", "The Lecture", "Essays Presented to Charles Williams" and a mass of variorum material ("Bodleian Library Tolkien MS. 16 Fol. 28" etc) where, even skimming, I began to lose the will to live. Next come a couple of contemporary newspaper reports on Tolkien's lecture, after which transcriptions of the draft "Manuscript A" and "Manuscript B" -- with further editorial commentary -- take us up to page 299. The final tale of 320pp is completed by bibliographies and an index. It's all terribly worthy and numbing. As C.S. Lewis wrote: "If we have to choose, it is always better to read Tolkien again than to read a new criticism of him." All right, he actually said Chaucer, but ...
11 July 2008 Still struggling with the backlog! One bit of cheer was a message from Henry Gee of Nature, accepting yet another Langford short-short sf story for the "Futures" page -- this will be my fifth appearance there. Also, The Indexer wants to quote my 27 June posting here, which I'd thought would be old hat in those learned circles. Some oddments: Conservapedia vs Hidebound Orthodox Science (via Avedon Carol). Australian Pulp SF Health Posters (via Rich Coad). Are Black Holes PC? (via Taras Wolansky). Lin Carter postcard worth $500,000??? (via Gary Dalkin). Traditional Welsh signage (Porthmadog, July):
9 July 2008 Once again I've been away from home and net access for a while. I'll deal with the waiting masses of mail and email when time permits. Sad to come back to so many messages about Tom Disch -- and deaths in fandom, too.
1 July 2008 Remember that third edition of the Encyclopedia of SF? It's still very much a work in progress, but towards the end of June we passed the two-million-word mark. That is, more than 700,000 words have been added since the second edition of 1993. Back then, according to the final electronic text, there were 6,571 entries. Now there are 8,537. Onward! Ansible 252 (July 2008) appeared yesterday, possibly the first time that an issue has been published before its nominal month. Millions of outraged emails from protesting readers have, so far, not been received. How to Recognize a Weapon of Mass Destruction and How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers.
27 June 2008 Oh, poot. Being fond of eccentric indexes -- especially if missed by the British Library's jolly bedside book Indexers and Indexes in Fact & Fiction ed. Hazel K. Bell -- I'd meant to quote the following in Cloud Chamber 158. The book is Mark Twain's Autobiography as prepared and indexed by Albert Bigelow Paine: "The most interesting feature is the index, which begins with 'About a meeting in Carnegie Hall' and continues through such items as 'Comment on a newspaper clipping', 'Delight of Clemens's secretary in forceful language' and 'Invitation from Augustin Daly' (a more pedestrian indexer might have put this under D). I imagine a maiden aunt of Mr. Paine's constructing it as a labor of love; she was a small-town librarian, myopic and gently insistent on doing things her own way, and I like to think she derived much quiet pleasure from putting 'Little girl's letter about Huckleberry Finn' under 'L'." (Dwight Macdonald, Against the American Grain, 1962)
25 June 2008 Really I should be working flat-out at something else, so here's another issue of Cloud Chamber.
21 June 2008 The usual tip of the hat to that fine man Gordon Van Gelder for rushing me advance copies of the August Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with my latest "Curiosities" piece, discussing Prof A M Low's 1937 epic Adrift in the Stratosphere. Still talking about me: the collected Langford columns for Amstrad PCW magazines, which I'd intended to self-publish as a companion to The Apricot Files, look as though they'll be appearing as a nicely packaged Cosmos/Wildside trade paperback. The working title is The Limbo Files, and cover design maestro Juha Lindroos is already on the case. It's true that I got away as often as possible from the ostensible subject matter to bang on about writing, freelancing, and the unspeakable horror of the literary life, making this material much more general-interest than the Apricot columns. US Republican humour. This A E van Vogt plot summary makes me profoundly glad never to have read the novel.
17 June 2008 Obituaries for Algis Budrys continue to appear: here are the Chicago Tribune, Locus and SFWA, while SF Signal has links to several personal tributes. John Clute in the Independent forgets (in fact never knew about -- I asked him) Budrys's second trip to England as a guest of the 1989 Mexicon in Nottingham, and Tom Disch cannot be doing with de mortuis tact. My only personal meeting with Algis Budrys was during the above-mentioned Mexicon, a cheerful encounter at a time when the Conspiracy '87 controversy was largely forgotten. I greatly admired his writing -- stories, novels, criticism -- and still do.
6 June 2008 A bottle of champagne in the post is always welcome, but I'm not sure that I earned it. On most Saturdays I pit my feeble brain against the tricky Inquisitor crossword in the Independent, and on 31 May I found (actually, Hazel found) one David Langford heading the list of winners for #72. This had to be a mistake, since I distinctly remember not being able to finish that one. Maybe they accidentally printed the winners for #71 or #73, both of which I completed and sent in; anyway, the champers turned up this morning. Whoopee! I particularly liked #71, titled "At Random" as a hint of the "publishing houses" theme. All the unclued entries came from book titles containing houses: Bleak, Cards, Usher, Spirits, Pooh Corner, etc. Much more my sort of thing than the ones that require you to know names of cricketers, lyricists or US locomotive classes. Pam Scoville continues to send encouraging daily bulletins on Paul's progress -- with luck he'll be out of hospital today.
3 June 2008 I was worrying considerably about Paul Barnett, but Pam Scoville broadcast this encouraging post-op bulletin: "Paul was out of surgery by 2pm this afternoon. He had just a triple bypass since the vascular surgeon did not think the carotid was anywhere near needing to be cleaned out. They will watch it closely in the future. By my second visit (only allowed 30 mins every 2 hours) his color was starting to come back and by 6pm his coloring was almost normal, his vitals had stabilized and the airway came out. Although his throat is sore from the airway and he hasn't had tea in over 24 hours he was able to let loose with a verbal zinger or two -- even though he sounded like a frog. So, so far, so good." Fingers remain crossed while he's still in intensive care.
1 June 2008 Once again, Ansible has happened. My thanks to the select few who sent encouraging responses (plus a muffled grumble for others whose addresses are regularly set to tell the world that "XXX is out of the office", a point curiously lacking in interest for the owner of a mailing list). Triumphal noises about the fact that I didn't stop at the roundish number 250 may of course be premature -- there's an even rounder number (in the notation now used for all arithmetical operations) coming up this year, with Ansible 256.
31 May 2008 Of late I've been noticing quantities of suspicious white powder on our dining-room carpet; the local street price turns out to be £1.50 per kilogram. Hazel (for it is she) has been sprinkling salt about the place in hope of deterring the slug that regularly gets in through some undetected crack and leaves a complex trail across the floor -- the revolutionary blazon of the Shining Path. Now at last: "It's gone," Hazel quavered in horror. "It immolated itself on the salt by the Welsh dresser. It looked awful but at least we've got rid of it...." Me: "You realize it probably has a large family under the floor that'll be wondering what happened to Daddy and sending up search parties?" She: "SHUT UP JUST SHUT UP AND DON'T SAY ANY MORE!" Langford, Man of Tact. I won't even mention the difficulties of hoovering up salt that's been closely involved in a hideous slime immolation.
20 May 2008 Things have come to a pretty pass when a Briton faces prosecution for publicly quoting, in London, a ruling by our own High Court. Other coverage here ... and here. And, lest we forget, the usual context. Later: Oh, good.
13 May 2008 A few links. I was sad to hear -- too late for the May Ansible -- that Michael de Larrabeiti of Borribles fame died in April. Roger Ebert remembers fanzines. The secrets of modern web design.
12 May 2008 The time is out of joint ... all sorts of things have been failing to synchronize, like the arrival from Florida of Hazel's brother and his lady a day later than expected ("when we said we were coming on Wednesday we meant we were starting on Wednesday"), my mother's discovery when she went into hospital for an eye operation that she wasn't booked until the next day, and so on (and on). General jitters and confusion. At least that nice Gordon Van Gelder has bought my latest "Curiosities" piece for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and life was also brightened by the anthologist who asked if I could submit to his new project since he'd greatly liked "Enemy Mine". Langford and Longyear -- they sound so much alike. Today, with the deadline looming, I delivered my 172nd SFX magazine column. Mr Langford, where do you get your crazy ideas every four weeks or so? I wish I knew.
30 April 2008 Thanks to a lingering cold (this one will run and run!) I've been feeling wretched for some while. At least recovery has been achieved in time for the Arthur C. Clarke Award ceremony tonight. One of the things I've been putting off while under the weather is deciding what to do about the Insidious Temptation of John Scalzi, who invites the other 2008 fan writer Hugo nominees to
make fools of themselvesdisplay their skills at "Whatever, my blog, [which] gets between 30,000 and 40,000 unique visitors daily". A nice gesture which gave me a terrific attack of the dithers. Blimey, Ansible and I don't get that many visitors in a month.... This goaded me to compile a page of links to my 2007 fan writing (obviously excluding paid work like the SFX columns, but with one substantial article not previously on-line) and to stare at it gloomily.
18 April 2008 More silence here. Yesterday I woke up with a foul cold and couldn't stir myself to any effort beyond fiddling with an oldish computer that needed things installed. (The epic saga of searching for missing video drivers is omitted by popular request.) By eerie coincidence, just as the snivels were at their worst and there wasn't a dry hanky in the house, a bottle of single malt arrived in the mail -- brother Jon's delayed birthday present. Enormous restraint was exercised, so today I have only the continuing cold and not a hangover as well. Bleah.
12 April 2008 Yesterday was the Brasenose College Gaudy. No filthy anonymous graffiti were slipped into my gown, no doubt because the dress code was Black Tie and No Gowns. Martin Hoare and I went along together in a mutual-support pact which the college tried its best to undermine with copious free drinks. By special request of hardly any readers of this page, here are some pictures.
10 April 2008 Another birthday! Besides the cards and greetings, extra cheer in the mail comes from the new issue of Nature Physics with my short-short story "The Cold Truth" -- carefully balanced, thanks to some arcane law of conservation, by HMRC tax forms and a credit card bill. I miss the bizarre birthday messages I used to swap with John M. Ford, born on the same day (though younger), but there's still synchronicity with famous Welsh artist Jim Burns (who's older, ha ha). Now Hazel and I are off for for a fortifying lunch at Sweeney & Todd's pub and pie-shop in Castle Street, Reading. Yes, there's a barber next door.
6 April 2008 I tend to get vague about how many people visit the Ansible site, since research in this area conflicts with major lifestyle choices like apathy and sloth. Today, though, I took a look: Ansible 248 (March 2008), which is no longer the latest visible issue and should have settled down a bit, has reportedly had something over 3,900 visitors. The email list membership, as usual, is running at slightly above 3,500. Adding these figures may not be a sensible exercise -- for all I know, most email recipients follow the web link to see the pretty version -- but feel free to work out the total and marvel at its insignificance compared to the daily visitor count at any popular blog. Ansible: the elitist newsletter!
5 April 2008 It has been pointed out to me (thanks, Michael Walsh) that horrid foreigners aren't allowed to see the BBC video linked below, but that YouTube came to the rescue. Also, The Making Of ... I'm plotting another nonfiction collection with Cosmos Books, tentatively titled Starcombing. No, it probably won't contain 5,271,009 essays and reviews, but there should be quite a lot. Why do I feel this strange urge to visit Spitalfields Market for no reason but to take photographs? (Here's an official poster. Here's a counter-poster.)
1 April 2008 It's always a pleasure to be fooled by the BBC. Ansible 249 appeared today, with no intentional foolery. My thanks to everyone who pointed out that the Langford basilisks are continuing to manifest in real life.
25 March 2008 Orbital (Eastercon 2008) is over and a fine time was had by all. I took a tiny computer so I could show people the current state of play on the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (third edition), tinker with a review in progress, and write the tribute to Arthur C. Clarke which SFX wanted by noon today -- now delivered and approved, which is a relief. Thanks to hero chauffeurs Martin Hoare and Keith Freeman for getting me to Heathrow and back again without any need to face the horrors of Bank Holiday public transport. Here are the BSFA Awards. Apparently we're returning to the same venue, the Radisson Edwardian at Heathrow Airport, for Eastercon 2010. This year I was in the overflow hotel, the Renaissance, not having realized until I saw the place that it was a rebranding of the old Heathrow Hotel where I and others ran Skycon over the Easter weekend of (dot dot dot ominous and doom-laden pause) 1978. Some dim Langfordian recollections of this appear in the instant fanzine Journey Planet produced by James Bacon and Chris Garcia during Orbital -- although they somehow managed to lose all my italics.
21 March 2008 No time to say a word about the 2008 Hugo Nominations (except that, obviously, I'm pleased) -- I'm off to Eastercon and will hope to see some of you in, most probably, the bar.
19 March 2008 Goodbye, Arthur C. Clarke. I don't have an obituary waiting on file, but who inside or outside the science fiction world needs to be told about Sir Arthur? He was one of the last surviving stars of what John Clute has called First SF. "Overhead, without any fuss ..." When honoured by Thog in Ansible 178 a few years ago, he sent delighted email: "Now I can die happy -- finally made it to MASTERCLASS!" It's time for my umpteenth rereading of (no hesitation about this choice) his seminal sense-of-wonder novel The City and the Stars.
18 March 2008 Since all the best pundits say you absolutely must have permalinks on your web page, I've installed a home-made system here. (The Plain People of the Web: Why not just use blog software that does it all for you? Myself: Sheer perversity.) The entry dates are now supposed to be permalinks that take you to the relevant entry, whether it's still on the front page or has been deported to the archives. Maybe the front-page handling is a bit too flashy. Maybe, for some of you, it won't work at all. Let me know.
17 March 2008 Suddenly, Eastercon 2008 seems awfully close: I'm supposed to be there from Friday to Sunday. At least I've just had some convention pocket money from ALCS, which -- reflecting my unhealthy focus on book and magazine nonfiction rather than proper sf stories -- paid me some 15 times what I got from library loans via this year's Public Lending Right handout. The fan initiative to equal Terry Pratchett's $1m donation to Alzheimer's research now has its own website: Match It For Pratchett, with a handy PayPal donation option.
14 March 2008 Would you believe yet another computer disaster? Not an important one, but quite challenging in a fantastically tedious way. The great Arthur D. Hlavaty's fanzines used to issue the dread "neep-neep warning" when computer geekery impended: I think that at this point I should say neep-neep and hide the horrors behind a link.
13 March 2008 In goes the latest SFX column. Number 170! I wonder if they'll tolerate me long enough to reach 200.
8 March 2008 Panic in the morning when Hazel's computer monitor failed. Swift rescue thanks to our friendly local shop, which is getting a lot of business from the Langford household this year. Then, with arms aching from carrying heavy CRT units to and fro, it was time to fling together this month's issue of Ansible....
7 March 2008 For many years I've avoided Oxford college reunions, largely because I'm too mean (Hazel: "Thrifty, dear, you mean thrifty") to buy or hire a dinner jacket for the occasion. However, this year I've been seduced by curiosity and the discovery of an outfit approximately my size in a Reading charity shop. Will anybody who reads this be attending the Brasenose Gaudy on 11 April? No, I didn't think so. And I suspect BNC events are rather less exciting than described in Dorothy Sayers's Gaudy Night.
5 March 2008 Slight diversion: PDF proof of my story "The Cold Truth", another short-short sf contribution to "Futures" in Nature or (this time) Nature Physics. No idea when this will appear.
28 February 2008 A long, long drive with Martin Hoare to Ken Slater's humanist funeral far out in the lonely fenlands (actually on the outskirts of King's Lynn). Martin's new GPS kit, running on a Windows Vista laptop and never before used in anger, provided an interesting challenge for his passenger -- especially when, with 20 miles to go, the battery ran down. Besides Ken's daughter Susie and other family members, the turnout included Brian Ameringen, Erik Arthur, Simon Bradshaw, Claire Brialey, Jim Campbell, David Eggleton (who used to keep the market bookstall with Ken long ago, and helped organize a 1960s Peterborough Eastercon), Martin Hoare, Tim Illingworth and Marcia, me, Rog Peyton, Mark Plummer, Chris Priest, Doreen Rogers, Peter Weston (carrying the latest issue of his fanzine Prolapse for Susie), and Bridget Wilkinson. It's hard to believe that Ken is gone.
23 February 2008 Picocon at Imperial College in London. I always enjoy the walk from Paddington across Hyde Park, with a pause to giggle at the Albert Memorial. Had a few drinks, bought books from Brian Ameringen, talked crosswords with Roger Robinson, chatted with various other greying fans, and that was it. I'm getting shockingly lazy about attending programme items (especially when held several streets away from the main venue) that I probably won't be able to hear.
21 February 2008 Recently I drafted some brief reminiscences of growing up in South Wales, for a coming project of brother Jon's. Urban legends about Welshmen, wellies and sheep were fleetingly touched upon, and now I find there's a old legal tradition of linking the Welsh to certain activities. The long title of one 16th-century bill goes: "An Acte for the contynuyng of the Statutes for Beggars and Vacabundes; and ayenst conveyaunce of Horses and Mares out of this realme; ayenst Wellsshemen making affraies in the Countyes of Hereford Gloucestre and Salop; and ayenst the vice of Buggery." (18 Hen. 8, c. 6, 1536.) Luckily for all concerned this was repealed in 1863.
19 February 2008 UK-resident authors are urged to sign this petition against reduction of the never all that generous PLR funding.
15 February 2008 On the 11th, at Orion's typically lavish champagne party in the Royal Opera House, I saw a few of the usual author suspects (Chris Priest, Rob Holdstock, Robert Rankin, Adam Roberts) and met a couple of new ones (Joe Abercrombie, Alex Bell) but have nothing edifying to report. At an SF Encyclopedia meeting with John Clute, Darren Nash of Orbit dropped heavy hints about drollery in their packaging of Charlie Stross's Halting State. Aha: the little pixel-people on the jacket are mostly story characters, but this extra one from the back cover would appear to be the author himself....
2 February 2008 A slight change of pace as I put aside mere computers to sign a pile of sheets for PS Publishing -- not my own book, alas, but a novella by John Grant (Paul Barnett) to which I was allowed to write the introduction. The author suffered the hard slog of having to sign all 726 sheets (plus extras) to cover the entire hardback print run of The City In These Pages; the introducer merely has to deal with the 200 numbered- and 26 lettered-edition copies. So the introducer is rarer and more special than the mere author, and rarer still is the illustrator whose sought-after scrawl will appear only on the fantastically expensive lettered run of 26. I know my place.
31 January 2008 At last there's a working computer on my favourite desk with the comfy chair, and I can stop perching at the awkwardly placed backup machine. Lots and lots of software still to be reinstalled, though, and one or two bits of hardware for which no modern drivers are to be had. Bear with me. A small surprise: the dear old Necronomicon, which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year, has come out in a smart new Japanese hardback translation.
25 January 2008 Let's have some links. Marion Pitman, local sf fan, book dealer and good egg, is currently going through a difficult patch. Take a look at her ABEbooks offerings? Paul Barnett was amazed to discover Thog: The Movie. What to do with your old computers. The Guardian continues to discover sf. A typically politicized South Wales sheep.
23 January 2008 Another tiresome and gloom-ridden week. The regular SFX column was unusually difficult to write, for some reason. Computers still in disarray -- today I found time to get back to the shop, where the replacement had allegedly been fixed, but at home it fails in precisely the same way: although simple stuff works, there are consistent browser errors, browser crashes, or even sudden reboots whenever I go to a script-heavy website like Gmail.com. My guess is something memory-related on the motherboard. The nice people at the shop are now offering to exchange the machine. We shall see. Meanwhile, a moment of culinary cheer....
16 January 2008 Good news: on Monday I acquired a new computer to fill the gap (as it were) in the house network. Bad news: it's developed a problem and is back at our local shop, being tinkered with by experts. However, I've now steeled myself to instal an assortment of utility software on another machine so I can at least update a few web pages. The usual email address is also active once more. It was hard to focus on the computer worries since I also had to deliver an sf review by noon today, a task which owing to my unusual conscientiousness entails reading the book. This was The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper: a good read to which Gollancz had added the cruel new twist of invisible page numbers. Presumably they were light grey in the US edition and failed to reproduce well. Imagine the fun of taking notes when close study of adjacent pages is needed to work out what each Rorschach cluster of pale dots is supposed to represent.... Good news again: that nice Henry Gee of Nature has smiled upon my one fiction submission of 2007, which will appear in Nature Physics. Almost too good to be true: although many printed variants have been reported over the years, is this the first such announcement on line?
13 January 2008 Unlucky thirteen. The motherboard of my usual working computer went up in smoke this morning -- very nearly literally: the office reeks of something that got far too hot. Of course there are plenty of backups, and the hard drive (currently linked to another system) seems to have survived intact. But, for a day or three, I probably won't be picking up email from my usual address. Please CC any urgent or important messages to d e a f m a n at Gmail.com. Normal service will be.
9 January 2008 It's been a sluggish month so far. Ansible 246 failed to astonish the world on 7 January, and I caught up with some correspondence. That's about the sum total of Langfordian achievement since New Year's. Must try harder. Must stop being distracted by the lure of cryptic crosswords: "Harry Potter and a genie have early discussions (12)."
January 2008 (nominally) -- it's really time that I cleared the "Random Links" section from my home page. The items are mostly years old, and I've dropped out of the habit of adding new ones because the most topical sf links now go into the right-hand column of the Ansible links page while non-sf ones tend to appear in home-page diary entries. So let's shove the old list out of the way here ...
Plagiary: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in Plagiarism, Fabrication and Falsification
Max Ernst: The Eye of Silence
National Secular Society
Chris Priest's Worldcon GoH Speech
Have fun with 419 fraudsters
Useful ways to destroy the Earth
The Uncyclopedia explains science fiction, fantasy, and Isaac Asimov
John Varley: "Iceland: Threat or Menace?"
Tolkien synopsized for lazy students
The Gallery Of "Misused" Quotation Marks
The future as it used to be
Anthony Earnshaw (co-author of Musrum)
Beachcomber (J.B. Morton)
Thog's period typography in films
The two Christopher Priests
Private Eye covers archive
Preditors & Editors
Quest for the perfect font (argh)
Dear old L. Ron
Virus hoax warnings
Gmail account as PC network drive