31 December 2010 All best wishes for the New Year; and here's a surprise issue (mostly just book notes, I fear) of Cloud Chamber.
21 December 2010 Solstitial greetings to all! In the SFX column I wrote and delivered earlier this month, I talked about the obvious parallels between the current Wikileaks uproar and the finale of John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider (1974). So it was vaguely alarming when a couple of Ansible correspondents directed me to this 8 December Telegraph article making the same connection. Will people assume I swipe my talking points from the Torygraph? After a while came the comforting recollection that I'd got in earlier with a 2 December comment on the identical subject at Making Light....
14 December 2010 One thing leads to another, and the other thing turns out to be a peculiarly disgusting cold. Still, I was cheered by the unexpected Christmas present of this Map of Literary Britain.
2 December 2010 Family health horrors continue, seemingly without end, and I haven't been feeling too good myself. Here's this month's Ansible. Again distribution was hampered by tiresome net-nannies: a harmless Brian Aldiss anecdote about telling Arthur C. Clarke to piss off caused some providers to choke in horror at this shocking "Language Mild".
19 November 2010 Last weekend I went to Novacon in Nottingham (good to see some of you there), and ever since have been dealing with complications and crises. Am trying hard to cultivate inner calm, as suggested by the convention hotel's clarion call to physical exercise:
9 November 2010 There was a sensation of a bony, spectral hand reaching from the past to clutch me by the goolies when someone managed to find my and Chris Priest's old publishing venture online, and recklessly enquired about an ebook title. It's been seven years since we gave up on ebooks (which, frankly, we weren't very good at) and switched to co-publishing our titles with Wildside Press as POD editions. Being reminded of the old Ansible E-ditions website stirred me to overhaul it a bit this week and get rid of the worst embarrassments. (And to decide not to renew the domain but to absorb it into the vast Ansible.co.uk web empire.) I still feel proud of the David I. Masson and John Sladek titles we published or republished – but it was also an awful lot of work, and Chris and I are disinclined to add to the list. If we had any laurels anywhere, we would ostentatiously rest on them. There's still some good stuff by both our authors as free reading at Ansible E-ditions.
2 November 2010 The new Ansible appeared yesterday, complete with a literary supplement; the new Google Groups email list seems to have worked (all thanks to the great Robert Silverberg for being the first to respond); and I still feel dead tired, so no more for a little while now. Yes, the motto NOLI TIMERE MESSOREM on Sir Terry Pratchett's coat-of-arms does indeed mean "Don't fear the reaper". I didn't think this needed to be spelt out, since the gag has long been part of his Discworld background as the "Death family" motto – see The Discworld Companion (1994) and Hogfather (1996). In accordance with series tradition, the Discworld version is in much doggier Latin as NON TIMETIS MESSOR, which probably set the College of Heralds reeling, writhing and fainting in coils.
25 October 2010 Thinks: it's been a while since I updated this site's page of photographs from the bimonthly Interzone column. Four more now added.
24 October 2010 Happy birthday, Mum!
18 October 2010 Our quince production broke all records this year with 328 fruit, 33 of them from the smaller bush which has previously managed only one or two. Various efforts spread over three days (we usually do it in a single afternoon) led to 38 jars of exceedingly sticky substance. Those who take up this work do not readily lay it down, or at least not entirely. Hastily created label:
13 October 2010 A splendid literary cake banned from the Melbourne Show for being in poor taste. Shocking, shocking. Thanks to Yvonne Rousseau for this tasty link. The Ansible email list has been recreated from scratch at Google Groups (long descriptions of toil and suffering here omitted on compassionate grounds) and can be joined via this page.
6 October 2010 Another remarkable offering from xkcd: this map of online communities definitely puts things in perspective. Relapse editor Peter Weston begged a cover scan of E.E. "Doc" Smith's First Lensman (1955 UK hardback). This edition has black-and-white artwork by A.J. Donnell throughout, enshrining each chapter's first letter as in this depiction of an eyeless Rigellian. The F, alas, does not stand for anything rude.
1 October 2010 Good news, at least for me: this month's issue of Ansible has been finished and uploaded. Bad news: the Ansible email list server has been disabled by mysterious Forces of Evil, so several thousand eager readers haven't in fact received it. Investigation continues.
28 September 2010 Today's post consisted of (carefully swathed in miles of bubble-wrap) the British Fantasy Award mentioned below. Again whoopee! Peter Coleborn had tantalized me by describing this year's trophy as "a figure (female it seems) holding something either rude, or a large cabbage."
19 September 2010 A complete surprise: I've miraculously won a British Fantasy Award! The initial release gives Ansible as nonfiction winner, but that should read "Ansible Link" – the digest version that appears bimonthly in Interzone. Gosh wow. Many thanks to all voters (though I have a nagging feeling that Nick Lowe deserved it more for his "Mutant Popcorn" film column) and to Jim Steel for being the first to tell me.
18 September 2010 Goodbye, Ted Tubb.
5 September 2010 Ansible is done, today, and I feel pretty done in myself. Now to sleep until Britain needs me again. Quondam et futurus.
1 September 2010 Oh dear. People have come to expect Ansible on the first of the month, but that's not a fixed rule and (owing to serious distractions in recent weeks) the September issue is a long way from finished.. My disgracefully indolent plan is to wait for news from the World SF Convention that's about to start in Melbourne. An Ansible correspondent whose web access depends on an elderly Blackberry told me that – presumably because of all the scanned images below – this page wouldn't load. Just as an experiment I invented a script that screens out graphics and merely shows their captions, if any: see here. Isn't PHP fun?
29 August 2010 Obsessive project of the last week: reconstructing (with volunteer assistance) the headwords list of the 1979 Encyclopedia of SF, in order to learn exactly what was cut for the second edition of 1993. The indefatigable Marty Halpern continues to send links to online reviews of Is Anybody Out There?. I won't inflict them all on you, but am rather pleased that Lois Tilton of Locus – not a reviewer who dishes out indiscriminate praise– lists my story as Recommended. Whoopee!
28 August 2010 You may know Peter Weston's fannish autobiography With Stars in My Eyes, published in 2004 by NESFA Press and shortlisted for the Hugo. But have you seen the much rarer dustjacket (it was originally issued without one) created by the late lamented Dave Wood and enthusiastically endorsed by the author? The tiny Langford namecheck came as a surprise.
25 August 2010 To London, for the SFX party in Soho, celebrating 200 issues since the magazine launched in 1995. Inevitably it was the wettest day of the month, and I was thoroughly soaked by the time I got to Greek Street and collapsed into the Pillars of Hercules to dry off a bit. There, happily, I found the great Robert Rankin and his good lady, and enjoyed an actual audible conversation before moving on to the party, whose loud music put an end (at least for me) to all that kind of frivolity. The homeward journey was even wetter than the outward one. Desperate fun, you bet.
11 August 2010 Mike Ashley sends the Japanese translation of his Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures, containing my loving pastiche "The Repulsive Story of the Red Leech":
6 August 2010 Unexpected late-afternoon delivery: a bottle of your actual French champagne from Oddbins. A prize, apparently, for a recent Inquisitor crossword in the Independent. Whoopee!
3 August 2010 Another month, another Ansible. As noted within, SFX will soon (25 August) publish its 200th issue containing the 200th regular Langford column. Unfortunately, despite being a Me Completist, I'm missing two of these back numbers. The problem was that Future Publishing used to have no provision for automatic mailing of complimentary copies, so the editorial people would mendaciously list regulars like me as advertisers to be coddled with freebies. But after I'd failed for a year or so to place an ad, some hidden hand would take me off the list again, and I had to grovel anew. Thus issues 70 and 98 fell through the cracks: by the time I realized they'd gone missing, the office had no copies left. If anyone has spares, I'd be happy to arrange a swap from my own small store of duplicates (including number 1) and/or other amazing SFX trade goods like Doctor Who fridge magnets. An incautious friend (Rob Hansen) wondered on a mailing list how easy it was to make animated GIF images. I'd never tried it, but dug out Serif Photo Plus and – after some struggle – modified this cheerful chappie from the masthead of Ansible 54. Oh dear. Maybe this is the kind of experiment one should conduct only once....
26 July 2010 Brother Jon has come and gone in a particularly brief encounter: about forty minutes gobbling pies in the pub before he had to take part in a Mekons performance elsewhere in Reading. Next comes a continental tour including a German festival which we fervently hope is better organized than this one. We have also celebrated Hazel's birthday and – thrills! thrills! – my first successful completion of a tax return online. A warning to correspondents: although I've been keeping up my cix.co.uk email address (est. 1993) for the sake of continuity, it seems increasingly likely that one day the host ISP (CIX) will fade away. See any recent Langford email for the preferred ansible.co.uk address. If you've mislaid it, the contact form should always reach me. But please don't rely on CIX for the long term. Only in England.
18 July 2010 Not much has been appearing here owing to prevailing gloom, mainly owing to Hazel's father's continuing health problems. Acting on principle traditionally goes unrewarded – but since I took offence at Amazon's bullying tactics, removed their links, and switched to the Book Depository, I've been getting significantly more in affiliate fees. Lots of thanks to those of you who sustain my life of dissipation through the Books Received page. Speaking of books received, I very recently listed Mike Moorcock's massive tome Into the Media Web: Short non-fiction, 1956-2006 (Savoy 718pp, ed John Davey). Today the author himself sends an email disclaimer: "Some early embarrassments in there! I didn't see it until it appeared in print and probably wouldn't have chosen everything John chose. Also, I've had to employ a sturdy boy to carry it around and hold it for me on his back when I want to read it. Still, sturdy boys are easily acquired in the Marais. The least Savoy could have done for the older reader would have been to include a free wheelbarrow with every copy." Here for light relief is the secret editorial formula of the Daily Mail.
9 July 2010 Today I drafted a column for SFX. Which is all very much part of the routine of the past 15 years, except for the magic of round numbers: this is my 200th column for the 200th issue of the magazine. Eeek. Brother Jon sends details of the imminent Mekons European tour. We'll be seeing him for just about long enough for a beer before his Reading gig on 24 July:
7 July 2010 Not being a connoisseur of the Higher Bibliography, I tend not to spend my days worrying about crucial distinctions between different states of first editions. But here's an enquiry from sf book dealer Andy Richards, wanting to know the secrets of pages 151-152 in Neville Spearman's first edition of The Necronomicon (1978) edited by George Hay – in which I have a 25% interest. Investigation of my own file copies reveals that the full-page drawing of the Miskatonic University quadrangle on page 152 initially had a large chunk of caption missing, as can be seen here. This is evidently the first state; in later copies there's a tipped-in replacement page with the complete caption. I don't think publishers go to this kind of trouble any more.... Here's yet another review of Is Anybody Out There? with a good word for my story, and indeed for all the others.
29 June 2010 News! News! I need a few more items of Ansible news by 1 July. Because it's too damned hot to make things up. Marty Halpern sends another review of Is Anybody Out There? which highlights several stories including mine. Phew. At last Adam Roberts draws a line under his epic Wheel of Time reading/reviewing stint.
25 June 2010 The latest mailing from Aussiecon 4 makes a change from big conventions' usual dull machine-franking: they've treated us foreigners to special stamps showing "Great Australian Railway Journeys". I am all impressed. (Here's the complete envelope.)
19 June 2010 You don't want a blow by blow, or step by step, report on the progress of my afflicted foot, which I am still trying to nurse back from the status of puny pyrrhus to sturdy spondee. Today I actually managed to struggle into ordinary shoes (rather than the terrible exploded relics – vagrants, for the use of – which were all I could get into) and go out to buy a newspaper. Hooray! But first I uploaded a new Cloud Chamber and the dread "A Short History of 'The Eye of Argon'" (from Banana Wings), because some of you are never satisfied.
16 June 2010 Now here's a surprise. I never expect to be nominated in the British Fantasy Awards, but somehow the "Ansible Link" column for Interzone has slipped into the Nonfiction shortlist. Wow! Here's the complete listing. Excuse me while I cavort a bit. "Link" is a bimonthly digest of items from Ansible, so the general flavour of last year's output is suggested by these 2009 Ansible links prepared for the Aussiecon Hugo Voter Packet.
15 June 2010 General lack of activity since I've been suffering from mysterious agonies in one foot for over a week, and haven't felt much inclined to update this page. Our doctor has prescribed assorted pills, and there seems to be a slow improvement. This cartoon may explain all too many film adaptations of beloved books. An Oxford contemporary reports with delight that our old college refuses to let MPs hog all the limelight of expenses scandals.
5 June 2010 Marty Halpern, co-editor of the just-published anthology Is Anybody Out There?, is posting some of its stories for everyone to read. As a carefully calculated anticlimax after the joys of Pat "Langford, you dog" Cadigan and Jay Lake, the third selection is my "Graffiti in the Library of Babel". Speaking as a dispassionate sf critic, I can say that it's short.
3 June 2010 Once again Simon R. Green presents me with a copy of a Green novel in which I die horribly. Or rather, it "features the terrible if somewhat sentimental death of one Dom Langford. Hope you enjoy it." Ansible 275 appeared on 1 June, and soon afterwards I received an urgent update: this month's BSFA London pub meeting is not on the fourth Wednesday (27 June) as usual, but on 30 June. There's always something.
27 May 2010 Today I'm gloating over my contributor's copy of that Fermi Paradox anthology Is Anybody Out There? ed. Nick Gevers & Marty Halpern. It appears on 1 June and has already been reviewed in the May Locus (by Gardner Dozois, who lists me under "there's also good stuff by ...") and here at Grasping for the Wind. That nice Mr Halpern is posting a few sample stories on his blog, where my "Graffiti in the Library of Babel" should appear next week. But to read the typo introduced by DAW Books into my closing paragraph, you'll have to buy the print edition.
24 May 2010 A kindly mention of Maps in a major US political blog (scroll down). Remarkable things to do with sheep. New Age terrorists develop homeopathic bomb. Author sues US government for copyright infringement. And I forgot to mention earlier that Adam Roberts has gone all deconstructionist on Wotix, or Book 9 of the Wheel of Time.
14 May 2010 Query from a researcher: who was the British MP who (apparently inspired by Daily Express outrage at the sexy bits of Norman Spinrad's serialized Bug Jack Barron) asked a question in Parliament about Arts Council support for New Worlds magazine? According to Mike Moorcock, "A Tory asked a question about us in the House of Commons – why was public money (a small Arts Council grant) being spent on such filth." Mike Ashley's Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970 reports the question as "why the Arts Council was sponsoring filth." All that filth was a major barrier to enlightenment: I searched Hansard online for such terms as "filth" plus "Arts Council", unsuccessfully because the actual exchange includes no mention of filth. Here it is – with the initial attack coming from a Labour MP (R. C. Mitchell), soon afterwards backed up by a Tory (Paul Channon). Another of those sinister cross-party coalitions.
13 May 2010 A moment of extremely modest glory: my name appears in this week's Private Eye. Not, fortunately, as the butt of abusive satire but merely as contributor of the Stupid Letter of the Week, sent to me by First Great Western's infallible mailmerge system: "Dear <NAME>, With your journey less than 48 hours away we wanted to take time to remind you of your travel details. [...] From: <CUSTOM_1> To: <CUSTOM_2> Date: <CUSTOM_5> Departure time: <CUSTOM_3> ..." Don't worry: I had other sources of information and was able to collect my rail tickets without relying on the included reference number <CUSTOM_4>.
10 May 2010 Letters from dear old Brasenose College tend to be more or less veiled requests for money, thanks to a happy delusion that all old graduates are now immensely rich. This one was slightly more chilling: "You should have received a letter from the Principal recently about Brasenose's first ever programme for current students to telephone BNC alumni to share experiences of Brasenose and discuss the College's current plans. Unfortunately, our students were unable to reach you during the programme, which has now ended with the beginning of term." Bloody hell! It's bad enough being cold-called by dubious telcos and shifty double-glazers, without 500-year-old educational establishments joining in. I was saved by the usual deaf reluctance to reveal my unlisted phone number to anyone at all, however lofty their motives or irresistible their charm. ("I am sure you will be delighted to learn that over one third of the alumni with whom we spoke decided to make a gift to the Annual Fund, while many others are giving the matter further consideration.") One imagines the BNC Principal, or more likely the Junior Dean, breaking it to the new student intake: "Since many of you will probably end up working in call centres, some vocational experience is desirable. Hence this challenging vacation assignment ..."
8 May 2010 A general sense of post-election gloom prevails. Still the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (third edition) chugs slowly onward. We now have an arrangement with Locus Online whereby we send public links to entries for the recently deceased, for inclusion in online death notices. Here's our own list of these. Another list in preparation will appeal for help with corrections to the EoSF contributor credits: software checking reveals that the second edition listed contributors whose initials appear on no entry, while a few entries are signed with initials not found in the contributor list. Some are easily fixed: JP turned out to be a typo from the rekeying of the first edition as a basis for the second, and should be JB (John Brosnan). Others remain mysterious: who is JCB, who wrote a couple of entries (including SEAQUEST DSV) found only in the 1995 CD-ROM edition? Can such historic data have been totally forgotten in a mere fifteen years? Oh yes. Adam Roberts has recovered enough from his agonizing surfeit of Robert Jordan to struggle through book eight, while Thog looks on in awe.
30 April 2010 Heigh-ho, and up she rises! – the May Ansible has sneaked pre-emptively into existence. Which, as noted therein, is merely because my printers don't open on Saturday. But I impulsively dated it 31 April or Mercer's Day, and wonder how many sf fans will get the reference rather than sending solemn corrections of the obvious typo. Adam Roberts, alas, has faltered at book eight of the Wheel of Time, marking this non-occasion with a little Robert Jordan pastiche that's uncannily reminiscent of my old friend's reaction to proofreading book five. Could they possibly be related?
25 April 2010 When Adam Roberts undertook to review Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series in weekly instalments (one per bloated volume), and said after the first book "The whole series will be a doddle." ... I sensed that Hubris would before long get clobbered by Nemesis. Some weeks later Adam agreed (in private email) with this diagnosis, but nevertheless – older, wiser, wearier, red-eyed and intellectually ravaged – he's struggled on through books #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 and #7. Thog is grateful for tasty pickings from the last two in particular. And still there's more to come at Punkadiddle!
15 April 2010 At last, in a time of gloom, clouds of volcanic ash and an impending general election, this cheerier news story: Chiropractors' libel case dropped against Simon Singh . Speaking of elections, Ernest Bramah's forgotten sf novel The Secret of the League (1909; 1907 as What Might Have Been) reminds us how much has changed in British politics: "In other words, it was quite legitimate for A to declare that the policy of the party to which his opponent B belonged was a policy of murder, rapine, piracy, black-mail, highway robbery, extermination and indiscriminate bloodshed ..." What, no NHS death panels?
10 April 2010 I'm overwhelmed by today's flood of birthday greetings. (Cyberspace: 5,271,009. Snailmail: 2.) Again, thanks to everyone! I am trying hard to get to grips with the fact that I am now as old, sober and responsible as Martin Hoare. Brian Stableford asks me to publicize the selling-off of his vast book collection. Later: deathless verse received from Brother Jon and his family!
Happy Birthday dear brother far over the sea
Roughly 5 years ahead on life's tollway it seems
Stagger on without care
To the number you share
With the year of my birth and a can of heinz beans.
8 April 2010 Catching up after Easter is always a chore. See Ansible for the few news updates I managed during and since Eastercon. It is, in a weird sort of way, a relief to have dropped off the Fanwriter Hugo shortlist (or rather, to have been pushed off by feisty young bloggers like Frederik Pohl). Thanks to all who, despite my relentless lack of campaigning, put Ansible on the ballot for Semiprozine. I shall continue not to campaign. Farewell to Guy Kewney.
2 April 2010 Today I'm off to Eastercon, but have posted some bits and pieces for non-attendees to read while I'm away, including of course the April Ansible.
1 April 2010 More royalties! The Harry Potter book is still earning money, which seems moderately incredible. No, really: I promise I wrote this note after midday....
30 March 2010 It's one of those days when I fondly raise a glass to the late George Hay and his eccentric project The Necronomicon (1978), which is still generating royalties – now solely from foreign editions – after 32 years. The latest statement reporting my modest but welcome quarter-share arrived this morning. Thanks again, George. Now I'll be able to afford a meal or two at Eastercon.
28 March 2010 Intermittent bedtime reading has recently included The High Speed Gasworks, a 1970 collection of Patrick Campbell's humorous articles (with trademark author-caricature cover by Quentin Blake) which includes a prediction of the horrors of the year 2000. A bottle of stout will cost 49/6d, while the great attraction of future Spain is that you can get wine there for only £7 12s 6d a bottle! Prediction should be made of sterner stuff. Elsewhere, though, a droll piece about contemporary aerial hijacking – written when Cuba was the invariable destination – imagines the writer's own peaceful hijackers being shoved aside by "the Suicide Squad of the Black Panthers, whose intention is to hi-jack our plane and land it on Fifth Avenue, thereby liquidating half the white population of New York." Did I say humorous?
20 March 2010 Here I am at Corflu, having just had breakfast with the great Earl Kemp. The usual suspects are present in force. Expect no updates until I'm home again. A depressing outcome to the Peter Watts trial; which, coming so soon after Cheryl Morgan's travel nightmare, does not increase my enthusiasm for visiting the USA. Meanwhile in Britain....
17 March 2010 It took a long time to get rid of the death-rattle cough which usually follows a Langford cold – in fact it hasn't quite gone – but now the convention season is about to open, with Bill and Mary Burns staying with us prior to Corflu in Winchester (from Friday). After that, Eastercon; I'm skipping the World Horror Convention because the prospect of desperate fun on three successive weekends evokes little whimpers of dread from both my bank account and my liver. This month's roll-out of Google Maps Street View to cover 95% of the UK led to a lot of obsessive typing of postcodes and steering down on-screen roads using an interface substantially clunkier than the original Doom game (this is known as progress). You can count the daffodils in our front garden – except there aren't any yet in 2010, so the photo must be from last March – while Hazel is highly critical of the new roof and loft conversion (as evidenced by extra windows) of the High Wycombe house where she grew up. Even my mother's place, in a cul-de-sac off an obscure side road in Gwent, shows up in relentless detail: dare I tell her that total strangers all around the world can now count the knick-knacks on her windowsills? Fortunately we have The Register to track such related phenomena as the Giant Flying Pliers of West Bromwich controversy.
3 March 2010 Yes, I still have a horrible cold. Never mind. Of all the insanely labour-intensive sf projects on which I've worked, I am proudest of Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek (2002; reprinted 2003). But now – look on my works, ye mighty, and despair – it's about to become a tiny bit obsolete. I tried to assemble all the great John Sladek's uncollected fiction (and poetry), but little did I know that there was an actual unpublished Sladek typescript hidden beneath dense verbiage in John Clute's cellar. Wearing his agent's hat, Chris Priest scanned this and cleaned it up; I proofread it; Gordon Van Gelder bought it for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The May/June 2010 issue will thus contain "The Real Martian Chronicles" by John Sladek, which might be described as "Mr Pooter [of Diary of a Nobody fame] Colonizes Mars". This has been an unsolicited plug.
1 March 2010 St David's Day, and I have a horrible cold. Managed to print and mail and webbify Ansible anyway, but now I'm getting complaints from a few people who received multiple copies in email – though I sent only one copy of this month's issue to the Mailman mailing list server, and authorized only that one copy for distribution. Will try to investigate when I feel less awful. Any suggestions, clever readers?
23 February 2010 I have to admire the energy of people who post daily reams of golden verbiage to their blogs even while keeping up a steady output of novels, short stories, etc. Merely updating the various puny Ansible pages often leaves me drained and depressed; there are times when I wish I'd steered clear of perpetual time-wasters like that damned overseas convention list. In other grumpy news, SFX informed me that my regular column was persistently too long for the page design. I was naughtily writing 750 words when they could fit in only 600. This, of course, was because 750 was the figure I'd been given. No one believes it's harder to say what you want to say in 20% less space; it was sheer luxury to relax and write a thousand-worder for The New York Review of SF yesterday, but this doesn't pay the bills. Onward. Counting blessings: a hefty payment this month from ALCS, a £25 Premium Bond win, and a few unsolicited plugs. Looking forward to Picocon, Corflu and Eastercon....
12 February 2010 A word from Dr Samuel Johnson: "A man who is asked by a writer what he thinks of his work is put to the torture, and is not obliged to speak truth ..." (Boswell's journal, 1778) I still feel a residual thrill when a Langford piece appears in print, especially with a cover credit: today it's Murky Depths #11 with my longish review of Phil Baker's The Devil is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley.
8 February 2010 The mysterious server problems at The Book Depository UK had vanished by yesterday, and I completed my fell task of Amazon-zapping. All the thousands of hard-coded Amazon affiliate links on this site's Books Received page and past archive have been replaced by marked-up ISBNs which a little PHP script expands into links to The Book Depository UK, The Book Depository US, and anything else I care to add in future. Even Amazon, should they ever manage to redeem themselves. (Special exception: Amazon links leading to their commissioned Langford reviews were the whole point of the long-static Amazon Reviews pages, and these have been grudgingly allowed to remain. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.)
6 February 2010 The vanished Buy buttons at Amazon.com returned yesterday – except for Kindle editions [now also restored]. Maybe they felt a sense of artistic neatness in pissing on all us Macmillan/Tor authors for exactly one week, or five days from when they first pretended to "capitulate". The only Langford book to be affected was The End of Harry Potter? It was a mild surprise to discover in January 2010 that a Kindle version existed: I had vaguely assumed that publishers should tell the author about such things, although I suppose a complimentary copy (six complimentary copies?) would be a mite impractical since I don't have a Kindle. My latest review copies added in Books Received have links to The Book Depository and not Amazon. Amending past links will have to wait until I find time to fudge up a suitable macro, but Amazon's days on this site are numbered. Very annoyingly, just as I'm switching affiliation, The Book Depository UK site seems to be having server problems and is almost unusably slow. Following a book link right now (10:15am GMT) gives me some 40 seconds of connecting to things like books.google.com, affiliates.bookdepository.co.uk and www.google-analytics.com, at which point the page appears in ugly basic HTML with no images or style sheet; then, on the one occasion I had the patience to time it, two and a half minutes "connecting to static.bookdepository.co.uk" before a final "Done" with the page still identically messy and unstyled. Oh dear. I hope signing up with them wasn't a bad decision. (I assume the problem isn't with my broadband connection since other sites, even demanding ones like Gmail and Facebook, seem fine.) But bookdepository.com is fine; it's just bookdepository.co.uk that's taking forever to misdisplay a page.
3 February 2010 A happy surprise: Starcombing appears under Non-Fiction in the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2009. Three days now since Amazon's alleged capitulation – see yesterday's entry – and still no sign of restored Buy buttons for the Macmillan-imprint titles I'm monitoring, including my own. So I've grumpily signed up as an affiliate of The Book Depository and am gradually adding their links to Langford book pages (see upper right corner here). Expunging the huge backlog of Amazon links will be more work, but I'm feeling increasingly inclined to take the time as their "sod the mere authors" attitude persists. Oddest book title of 2009: longlist released.
2 February 2010 This month's Ansible appeared yesterday, and I can relax for a moment. The Amazon vs Macmillan feud – and Amazon's subtle negotiating ploy of removing virtually all Macmillan-imprint titles from sale – has been hugely discussed in sf circles since 29 January. It's interesting that so many news outlets have been saying that Amazon blinked/caved in/capitulated when its Kindle team posted a rather petulant announcement that could be paraphrased as "we suppose we'll have to give in eventually, but we won't like it and we hate Macmillan anyway." Some capitulation! That was two days ago, and Amazon still hasn't issued an official management statement or restored its direct Buy buttons, even for supreme masterworks like the Tor edition of The End of Harry Potter? Looks like sullen intransigence to me, and not capitulation at all. I'm considering dropping the Amazon links from my Books Received list, but can't face the sheer effort just yet. For now, let me just recommend The Book Depository as an alternative online source for new titles: they offer reasonable discounts and free shipping anywhere in the world. (It is one of Amazon's small meannesses that their standard shipping charge is automatically added to Book Depository orders made through Amazon, even though TBD ships directly and without charge.)
26 January 2010 Several days of stress and upheaval since Hazel's father was rushed into hospital with a heart problem: she had to get to his house to let in the ambulance crew, and owing to Reading's morning rush hour the taxi arrived 40 minutes late, and ... let's not go on. All praise to the Royal Berkshire Hospital for quickly carrying out a life-saving procedure. The Aged P is home again now, tired but officially well, and normal life should with luck resume. As a lifelong fan of A.P. Herbert's Misleading Cases, I was delighted (if slightly horrified) to find the famous crossword libel action moving from fantasy into reality. Whatever next?
14 January 2010 Some of my photographs from Rob Holdstock's funeral (mostly taken in the pub afterwards) can now be seen at Graham Charnock's website, in addition to his own – images selected, cropped and generally improved by Graham.
7 January 2010 As this week's snow began to fall in earnest, there was a late-night orgy of artistic creation next door. From our house we see only the rear of this monolithic figure. Today I found I'd been guilty of hideously sexist default assumptions in assuming it to be a snowman.
5 January 2010 At last: Ansible 270 and the accompanying Rob Holdstock memorial supplement are finished and published. I seem to have been working on the latter forever, with various moments of madness including one I wish I could share with Rob. At some stage I decided to add the excellent photo of him on the Order of Service booklet cover, acquired via screen capture from the PDF document. Unfortunately the cursor of my PDF viewer had strayed into the photo area and got captured too. This cursor takes the form of a tiny hand, and the tiny hand – with the sort of precision you achieve only by accident – was groping Rob's fly. As Roy Kettle rather ambiguously put it, he would have fallen off his chair at this.
1 January 2010 Happy New Year, everyone. May we (especially in science fiction circles) lose fewer friends in 2010 than in horrible old 2009. I've been making some changes to other Langford websites. The great John D. Berry, master of typography, felt it irksome that although each issue of Ansible credits Dan Steffan for his logo (a permanent fixture in the print edition since 1991), the logo itself used to appear only on other site pages, not the individual issues (a quick and dirty decision made long ago to simplify web design). At colossal expense this defect has now been fixed in all past issues! Other "improvements" are too small and fiddly to note in detail. Meanwhile, Ansible Information – the software arm of the Langford empire – has gone into suspended animation. This relates to a New Year resolution to abandon technical support for cobwebbed utilities that worked perfectly well up to Windows 98 or ME but which Microsoft has since clobbered with several layers of its famous Backwards Incompatibility. It's time (when I find time) for cruel triage of the catalogue into products that might still be sold, though online only; those that can be added to the free downloads; and those I don't want to think about ever again. Work continues on the now very large Rob Holdstock memorial supplement to the January Ansible, both to be released on Monday if not earlier. There is still time to contribute.