2011 Log

31 December 2011 Time to wish you all a Happy New Year. Owing to general lack of fictional output I hadn't expected to feature in any Best of 2011 lists, but get a passing mention at #9 in this Paste Magazine feature – basking in the reflected glory of Jon's Skull Orchard Revisited. Good for him.

25 December 2011 Merry Christmas! And I trust you're all having even more fun than they do at Cold Comfort Farm, as recorded in Ansible's 1997 festive extra.

23 December 2011 A somewhat miserably uninventive (though egotistical) Christmas issue of Cloud Chamber.2

15 December 2011 I've been too busy to have a proper gloat about my first appearance in the Sunday Telegraph last weekend. Admittedly the subs caused me to say "sci-fi", as they do..... More in January, I hope.

5 December 2011 This morning we visited Hazel's late father's house for, almost certainly, the last time. It's completion day and the new owner was to take possession at 1pm. We read the utility meters, left welcoming and explanatory notes (Hazel vetoed my suggestion "The central heating controller is manifestly incomprehensible ..."), and carried away the Lares and Penates – that is, the earthenware pot which by family tradition had stood in the fireplace of every house where Hazel's parents lived. After placing it very carefully in our own hearth, she had a little cry. It's a little less than two years since we helped the Aged P. move into his new Reading home.

1 December 2011 Just when you thought it was safe to send the Christmas cards ... another issue of Ansible.

11 November 2011 Gosh, a mention on MetaFilter! Also, the nice reviews editor at the Sunday Telegraph has just approved my first sf/fantasy roundup column for that paper. It should have been the second, with the debut on 10 October; but that deadline was during SF Encyclopedia pre-launch hell and Paul Kincaid kindly covered for me instead.

1 November 2011 Here's Ansible 292. Still madly busy; no idea how I found time to produce this issue....

18 October 2011 The fish-nibbling shop–see 5 October– is not only still locked up, but also under fire from the tabloids. The Daily Mail may be uncertain whether this treatment causes or cures cancer (there is no middle ground in the Mail worldview), but today the Sun came firmly down on the negative side with FISH FOOT SPA VIRUS BOMBSHELL.

10 October 2011 The SF Encyclopedia beta text went live today.

6 October 2011 At last, the literary event for which the world has so long not been waiting: a new edition of Earthdoom!

5 October 2011 It seemed a little exotic for boring old Reading, but in mid-September I found we'd acquired a fish-nibbling shop in the Broad Street Mall. The high concept is that you pay money to let fish nibble your feet. (I got this free when I were a lad, paddling in the minnow-infested river at Ross-on-Wye.) Naturally, as soon as I could, I manoeuvred Hazel to this Fish Spa emporium to savour her cries of horror. That was on a promotion day, with young ladies patrolling outside the shop and desperately handing out inspirational literature on fish-nibbling: "It's the latest craze." Through the windows, over an insufficiently high privacy wall, you could see the blue plastic paddling-pools (there is probably a technical term for these) where feet could be exposed to the ravages of "100% Turkish bred fish – No fakes." The fact that customers would evidently be visible to passers-by while actually undergoing nibblement may be one reason why we never ever saw a customer in there. Today, though well within official opening hours, the door was shuttered and it looked as though the nibbling tanks had been removed. Soon, perhaps, a local paper will run one of those vanishing-heritage articles to mourn the passing of our town's traditional fish-nibbling trade.

3 October 2011 The new Ansible is here. The new SFX column went in yesterday. The new SF Encyclopedia launch may be as early as tomorrow; if not, see the new official SFE blog. Not sure when I last got a full night's sleep.

7 September 2011 It's a long while since I uploaded any SFX magazine columns. Here are my efforts for May, June and July 2011.

1 September 2011 Coming up for air (or was it "keep the aspidistra flying"?) just long enough to publish Ansible 290 before being sucked back into the dread maelstrom of the SF Encyclopedia.

20 August 2011 At last! I've known for months that my and John Grant's Earthdoom is gloriously displayed in the British Library sf exhibition, and several people have sent photos of the cover to prove it. Now, finally, I've seen the accompanying caption – which stylistic evidence suggests was written by guest curator Andy Sawyer, a Great Man:

Earthdoom caption at the British Library

19 August 2011 Lots of continuing work on the SF Encyclopedia, whose working text has just passed the magic milestone of (take a deep breath ...) three million words. Thanks to Graham Sleight we also have a Twitter presence, a status symbol to rank with furry dice dangling in the car window. • An enquiry about Ansible Information's infamous "A.I.Q." text generator software finally goaded me into making the thing available as a free download. Happy users can still give me money if they like.

1 August 2011 Another issue of Ansible escapes the mad scientist's laboratory to terrorize civilization as we know it.

13 July 2011 My mind has been melded, by cruel taskmasters at SF Signal.

5 July 2011 The halberd has fallen! The fewmets have hit the windmill! All, or some, was revealed today at www.sf-encyclopedia.com.

28 June 2011 The relentless progress of Earthdoom back into print continues – with my esteemed collaborator abandoning fancy work with fonts in favour of committing actual artwork for one key passage.

24 June 2011 This friendly review of Jon's book (see 3 June below) also makes mention of the artist's less famous brother. Well I never.

22 June 2011 Andrew Wells saw this post about a car racing game played on a thermal printer, and was at once reminded (bless him) of the teletype Space Invaders in The Leaky Establishment.

3 June 2011 At last, a copy of brother Jon's long-delayed book Skull Orchard Revisited – which as well as his own art, words and music includes further prose by me and a selection from our father's vast photographic archives. The theme is South Wales and specifically Newport (Gwent), where we grew up. Some science fiction fans will have seen a preview of my bits (since slightly revised) as "South Wales Alphabet" in Trap Door a couple of years ago.

Skull Orchard Revisited

14 May 2011 In memoriam Jack Salter (1923-2011): Hazel's father died today, on his 88th birthday. Hazel was with him. He had struggled against recurring illness for a long time, and wanted it to be over. Later: announcement in the Telegraph.

Jack Salter (1923-2011), May 2011

3 May 2011 I had my unconvincing explanations all ready, in anticipation of millions of readers protesting the non-appearance of Ansible 286 on 1 May or 2 May (a Sunday and then a British bank holiday, so the copy shop that does the print edition was closed both days). But no one seemed to mind.

22 April 2011 See you, or some of you, at Eastercon?

16 April 2011 That birthday, not a significantly round-numbered one, is now safely in the past. Thanks for all greetings: this year's breakdown was two cards, a dozen or so emails, and untold scores of Facebook messages. Not that I'm more lovable on Facebook than anywhere else – it's just that their system issues mass birthday reminders if you've been incautious enough to tell it the fatal date. Which is shared by sf buddies Jim Burns, David A. Hardy and Mike (John M.) Ford, the last still sadly missed. • Here's the latest SFX column upload. Here's Teresa Nielsen Hayden explaining literary categories. Here's my first ever crossword prize from the Oldie magazine – no, no link, I just wanted to have a little gloat.... • Spies told me that Ansible gets a mention in Jo Walton's fantasy Among Others. Now I've read the book (because of various rave reviews, rather than in desperate search of a namecheck), loved it, and was almost embarrassed by the enthusiasm of page 160's plug for the 1980-era Ansible. Thanks, Jo! • Certain signs and portents (Loose Lips Sink Spaceships) suggest that the Hugo Nominations Fairy has been making its traditional door-to-door calls, and for the first time since 1979 has passed me by. This is really quite a relief.

8 April 2011 Oh dear, another birthday getting ominously close. Too many people know the date.... • I'm a little bit intimidated by the dress code stipulated in this year's Clarke Award invitation: "Usually we just say smart casual and let everyone interpret that as they will, but this is a big night for us, so please upgrade that to awesome fabulousness." I'm fairly sure I don't do awesome fabulousness, even without italics. And that's just for the mere audience. Presenters, finalists, judges and others appearing onstage must presumably exhibit, at the very least, supernal transcendence.

2 April 2011 Another Ansible has happened. Not mentioned here yesterday for fear that the announcement would be taken for hilarious April Fool drollery. Or maybe just because I forgot.

27 March 2011 Diana Wynne Jones's death early yesterday at St Peter's Hospice, Bristol – though not unexpected after two grim years of cancer – was deeply saddening news for a great many people including me. As well as a much admired author (here's a review from 1998), she was a friend. In the last email I had from her, Diana was still cheerfully poking fun at the academics with her catchphrase "Jones disagrees" that so annoyed certain parties: "And talking of such things, did I tell you that Charlie [Butler] turned up the other day with the whole set of speeches from the DWJ conference (that I most miserably failed to get to; now I am glad: I would have shot upright from the audience and announced 'Jones disagrees' like anything)? Anyway, these speeches had now been tidied into articles and I read them and found myself most thoroughly Derridaed and Foucaulted and always referred to as 'the Text'. In future I shall have to say 'The Text disagrees'. Greer Gilman says I am now Jones the Text (as a compromise, I think)." • Later: Chris Priest wrote the Guardian's obituary.

18 March 2011 Two small surprises. Ansible is a finalist in the SFX blog awards, not for news but in the "literary" category; and it seems I'm big enough in Poland for a front-cover credit on the translation of Mike Ashley's The Mammoth Book of Seriously Comic Fantasy. The Harrison, by the way, is Harry rather than that noted farceur M. John:

The Mammoth Book of Seriously Comic Fantasy (Polish ed.)

13 March 2011 Just a few links. I've been postponing a mention here of this 2010 interview with me (not in fact posted until February 2011) in hope that my interlocutor would incorporate the proof corrections I sent at his request before it appeared, but hope has now faded. Paul "John Grant" Barnett points out this late review of our silly novel Earthdoom. Lots of people like this map of science fiction's history; Charlie Stross discusses superinjunctions and the Wunch; a past colleague of Abigail Frost posts some memories; science-fictional imagery continues to invade the world of politics; further transient sf links can be found on the right of the Ansible front page.

1 March 2011 St David's Day, and (courtesy of Wikileeks) Ansible 284 escapes into the wild. Again, overseas snailmail recipients have the special treat of a Gerry Anderson stamp: it was Thunderbird 2 in February, and this month Captain Scarlet. Yvonne Rousseau struck back from Down Under with a card whose stamps depicted a genuine Australian superheroine:

Germaine Greer on 60-cent Aussie stamp

27 February 2011 Be prepared for 29 April.

23 February 2011 Ian Whates sends the cover art of the coming (May 2011) anthology of pub stories in homage to Arthur C. Clarke's Tales from the White Hart. For my own contribution to this venture, I decided to conceal myself under my little-used pseudonym "Neil Gaiman"....

Fables from the Fountain

13 February 2011 Just for a change I went to the pickled-onion competition at a local pub (the Retreat) to see how well Martin Hoare placed, and to have a few pints of course. But I was unexpectedly conscripted as one of three judges for blind tasting of the sixteen entries. "Robust, mature hydrochloric acid flavour with subtle overtones of leaf mould, chocolate, banana and spam. A fine frisky onion yet not without lingering melancholy." Then, after rolling it round your palate one more time, you judiciously spit it out and try the next. I still feel a bit strange inside. Martin didn't win, but Judge Langford got a few takeaway bottles of beer for his services.

4 February 2011 How jolly to find one's story on the Locus Recommended Reading List. • A puzzle for you erudite folk: what are the two mystery objects below? Ansible's distributor Down Under found them in the mailing envelope with the January issue's white master sheets, and sent this photo (with Aussie 20¢ coin for size comparison). I feared I must have recycled an envelope containing something of Hazel's, but she too fails to recognize the perforated and pointy things. Could they have come back from a convention in a registration-packet envelope that I eventually re-used? We are baffled. (Later: the consensus is that the one on the right is the stylus for some touchscreen device. Gardner Dozois, in a dissenting opinion, says they are both Dalek marital aids.)

Goodness knows

1 February 2011 February, so soon? How dare they! This insult can only be avenged by publishing another Ansible.

31 January 2011 Another week of too much distraction. Here's Philip Pullman denouncing Oxfordshire library closures. And here's a photo demonstrating that products came with restrictive terms and conditions even in 1933 (also that the T&Cs were as usual not obeyed):

Stone beer jar

24 January 2011 Astonishing news! I wrote a new short sf story, and sold it just a few days later. Does this mean I have fulfilled my quota for 2011 (see previous post)? • In late 2009 I published a fairly timely commemoration of a thirtieth anniversary in Banana Wings, but forgot all about the usual automatic routine of putting it on the website until this month.

13 January 2011 Thanks to the usual press of nonfiction deadlines, ongoing projects and other distractions, my 2010 output of fiction consisted of a single story, "Graffiti in the Library of Babel" (in Is Anybody Out There? ed. Nick Gevers & Marty Halpern). Today's happy surprise is that David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer want it for their latest Year's Best SF anthology. • Also, here's another SFX column.

6 January 2011 The Reading Oxfam bookshop's "Science Fiction Spectacular" in March – during which Brian Stableford's vast donation of books and magazines will be sold – has its own web page at last.

4 January 2011 My first sluggish activity of the new year proves to be nothing more inspirational than Ansible 282.