2013 Log

24 December 2013 Favourite Christmas card this year: the great Bryan Talbot's design for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Click the image for a larger version, posted with Bryan's blessing (many thanks, boss).

Bryan Talbot's Sherlock Holmes Xmas card

21 December 2013 Happy solstice, everyone! • Lots of people predicted that the Great Internet Firewall of David Cameron – intended to prevent young people from viewing porn online – would be a shambles of unintended consequences. Now one UK provider, O2, has put up a page where you can check the status of sites: http://urlchecker.o2.co.uk/. From this I learn that the notorious full-frontal filth of Ansible is blocked by default "parental control". Likewise the SF Encyclopedia and the website of its host publisher Orion. Likewise the very disgusting London in 2014 Worldcon site. Casting around for the most ridiculous possible example, I find that – presumably for fear of young innocents soiling their minds with sordid tax and VAT – hmrc.gov.uk is blocked too. Good grief. • Cheryl Morgan's researches indicate that access to the horrors of bookshops is also Parentally Controlled, but with some (Amazon.co.uk) being more equal than others (Waterstones and everyone else). • Here's our post at the SF Encyclopedia site. Later: A New Statesman piece about all this.

11 December 2013 A pre-Christmas treat in today's mail: The Complete Uncle, being the result of Marcus Gipps's Kickstarter project to reprint the classic Uncle books by J.P. Martin as a single omnibus volume, with all the original Quentin Blake illustrations and much more. With reviews and appreciations by Neil Gaiman, other pundits and fans, and even me. (Me!)

The Complete Uncle

2 December 2013 Here's the merrie festive Ansible 317, chock-a-block with wassail, bah-humbugging and reindeer droppings.

22 November 2013 Well, it's taken me a long while to get over the post-Novacon symptoms of coughs, sniffles and blasphemous ichor – the natural consequence of exposing oneself to the germ pool of SF fandom. This month I launched an almost imperceptibly low-profile campaign of promoting books for awards ... not my own efforts but the very worthy Algis Budrys collections published this year by Ansible Editions (click link for more). Please think about it.

8 November 2013 Meanwhile, what's been happening at the SF Encyclopedia? I thought you'd never ask. Here's a tiny progress report.

6 November 2013 Oops. I should have linked to the November issue of Ansible when it appeared on Monday, but complications happened. Hoping to see some of you at Novacon in a few days....

1 October 2013 I don't seem to have had anything like enough recovery time or indeed enough sleep since the September issue, but here's Ansible 315.

29 September 2013 Two garden snapshots. The grapes, one of more than half a dozen bunches, are the latest from the vine in the back garden. The watermelon, weighing some 20 pounds, mysteriously appeared in the front garden this morning – already sliced, exactly as shown. Is it a Fortean phenomenon? The vegetable equivalent of a horse's head in the bed? ("Tonight, you will sleep with the cucumbers. ") Bafflement reigns.

Grapes 2013
Watermelon Surprise

28 September 2013 After years of accumulating "connections" and "endorsements" which never seemed even remotely useful to me, I've deleted my LinkedIn account. Please don't invite me back.

13 September 2013 Antique Bookmarks Dept: this old London tube ticket fell out of a 1936 edition of A.P. Herbert's Honeybubble & Co. The blurry cancellation on the back seems to read 26 JLY 1938. This, according to the archives of the SF Encyclopedia, is a date on which absolutely nothing of SF interest took place.

Old tube ticket

2 September 2013 Once again (where does the time go?) it's Ansible Day, and here is the September issue. As the poet wrote, "With many a weary step, and many a groan, / Up a high hill he heaves a huge round stone ..." Today I got my personal stone, called Ansible, to the top of that hill for the 314th time. And again "The huge round stone, resulting with a bound, / Thunders impetuous down and smokes along the ground. " Soon it'll be time to start the next long push, but not before I've had a drink and a night's sleep. (Remembering uneasily that Kingsley Amis's most alcoholic character in The Old Devils quotes the first of those couplets as suitable commentary on getting up in the morning ...)

28 August 2013 Far away in San Antonio, Texas, the World SF Convention is revving up. No, I'm not attending, for a variety of uninteresting reasons. See you all, or some of you, in London next year. • Thanks to everyone who bought the ebook edition of The Leaky Establishment, still in virtual print. I may yet summon up the energy to convert other Langford works to this format. But where to start?

7 August 2013 Kim Huett sends a clipping from Ambrose Bierce's column, "The Passing Show", in the December 1905 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine – reacting not wholly reverently to the death of Jules Verne. Always interesting to see one SF Encyclopedia subject writing about another:

Bierce on Verne

5 August 2013 Farewell to our local loan sharks. "Loans for Logbooks" has been operating just up the road in large premises that used to be a car accessories supermarket and a succession of furniture shops. Just saw, on my way to the post office, a notice on their door saying that the holding company "Tough Times Ltd" went into administration on 31 July. My only contact with them (not being one of the satisfied customers who regularly smashed the windows) was trying to cash a Western Union transfer. They claimed to be a special sort of Western Union branch where you can pay in but not collect. Somewhere I hear the playing of the world's tiniest violin.

3 August 2013 Yes, there is an August issue of Ansible, and yes, it appeared on the first of the month but didn't get mentioned here. I blame the hot weather. Oh, and the government.

26 July 2013 For those who wanted an ebook edition of The Leaky Establishment (the most popular of my few novels, with a fan base practically into double digits) – it's here! There was a slight delay while a volunteer proofread the whole thing on her Kindle and reported a few horrors, like an unforgivably missing space after a comma in Terry Pratchett's introduction, that had lingered since the 2001 print edition. Buy a copy and, as Spike Milligan used to say, Help This Man Become A Capitalist. • Yes, ebook editions of the Algis Budrys critical collections will follow soon. And other Langford titles too, if anyone is incautious enough to show interest.

17 July 2013 Since the last post here I've been working on ebook editions of the Algis Budrys critical collections and also (just for fun) my own The Leaky Establishment. Initially I thought of marketing these through Smashwords, but that outfit's inflexible submission requirement of MS Word document format is just too depressing – so ebooks will be available directly from Ansible Editions. Whose front page currently records another Lulu.com discount offer: 20% off any purchase until 19 July.

4 July 2013 It's been a busy week. On 1 July, after several days of frantic preparation and website updating, we finished publishing the Algis Budrys critical trilogy and announced this in Ansible 312. Details at Ansible Editions, whose front page currently reports a 25% discount offer for any purchase from Lulu.com on 3-5 July only (one use only). Go on, buy the books.... • Today I had another of those terrifying visits to the Royal Berkshire Hospital's Eye Block, to learn whether cataract surgery awaits me in the near future. Well, no: the medics originally expected that this would be necessary in July 2012, but the July 2013 message is simply "Come back for another check in nine months. " • Also another bottle of bubbly arrived on Tuesday: June was the first month ever in which I won the Independent's "Inquisitor" crossword twice. It was quite a simple puzzle really.

26 June 2013 At last, advance copies of the final instalment of Algis Budrys's collected Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction "Books" columns have reached me, and I'm gloating over the set of three volumes: Benchmarks Continued (2012), Benchmarks Revisited and now Benchmarks Concluded, the last two to be published simultaneously in the very near future. It's been a long haul since the party at Novacon years ago when Greg Pickersgill and I rashly said to each other, "Wouldn't it be good if someone reprinted ...?" There are 156 "Books" columns in all (also a bonus essay on Stephen King written for the special King issue of F&SF), totting up to some 467,000 words. Assembling them was a lot of work, especially the laborious scanning and OCR (Greg), the eye-straining proofreading (both of us plus Little Helpers) and the preparation of each volume's index (me). Keep watching the skies at Ansible Editions! The columns themselves are a substantial part of the work that won Budrys the Pilgrim Award for life achievement in sf scholarship.

19 June 2013 Another translated anthology containing a story of mine: the Greek edition of Steve Jones's Cthulhu-themed Shadows over Innsmouth.

It's all Greek to me.

8 June 2013 Before I'd looked at the Inquisitor crossword in today's Independent, Hazel pointed out that the included winner list for an earlier puzzle was headed by one David Langford of Reading. So, unless there's another me in town, the traditional bottle of champagne should be on its way. Whoopee! The puzzle in question, with good old William Shakespeare (anag. "I am a weakish speller") as its theme, is explained on the Fifteensquared blog. God I had genius in those days....

3 June 2013 So swiftly the time goes by, and once again the Ansible deadline caught me unawares. Herewith the June 2013 issue.

17 May 2013 Gosh, I have a story in the impressive volume below. It's the Russian version of Mike Ashley's The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures.

Hot off the Moscow presses

8 May 2013 Avram Davidson's bizarrely erudite (and sometime arguably bonkers) essays on the possible (if rarely probable) roots of myth and legend are collected in the 1993 small-press volume Adventures in Unhistory, a great favourite of mine. There seemed no hope of any further enchantment in this vein, but a long-lost 1981 "Adventure" typescript has come to light and was published today to mark the twentieth anniversary of the author's death. I devoured my review copy with ill-concealed glee. The very Davidsonian title is The Wailing of the Gaulish Dead; Eileen Gunn contributes a brief but perfect introduction.

2 May 2013 And now for something completely indifferent: Ansible 310.

19 April 2013 Time to put another SFX column online.

17 April 2013 I remembered to check the Sunday Telegraph for 14 April and confirmed that this contained my latest batch of reviews almost too small to be seen with the naked eye (more or less uncut, although the summary of The Rapture of the Nerds has suffered a bit; no link because it doesn't yet seem to have reached the Telegraph website). Of the wall-to-wall Thatcher eulogies filling the rest of the paper, I will only say: Gorblimey.

10 April 2013 Yes, it's my birthday, and one of those big ominous ones too. Thanks for all messages of greeting and/or gloating. The most utterly unexpected was a piece in Monday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – tucked away behind a paywall, but Hannes Riffel sent this PDF (which Google Translate doesn't render very well). Gosh.

6 April 2013 At last, in the murky dawn of the new UK tax year, Ansible 309 has happened. I blame the government.

2 April 2013 Ansible 309, the April issue, is delayed by illness (mostly mine, but Hazel isn't well either). Sorry.

30 March 2013 I continue not to be at Eastercon (it's a lovely day here in Reading and I feel too bloody awful to go out and enjoy it) but will be there in spirit for the Bad Death [Scenes] Awards at 7pm Saturday evening – see official programme schedule. Those unlucky enough to attend should hear some redolent lines and passages from the Thog Files, supplied by special request....

26 March 2013 Being in the grip of various bodily unpleasantnesses – none apparently life-threatening – I've cancelled all travel plans and am staying home trying to keep warm while reading genre books for an imminent review deadline. SF Encyclopedia updates are mostly on hold, and today I'm missing long-planned revelry with brother Jon in South Wales. It's just as well I'd decided (for reasons of private personal caprice) to skip Eastercon, or still more prepaid travel bookings would be going to waste.

7 March 2013 Oops. I forgot to check the Sunday Telegraph on 3 March when the latest sf nano-reviews appeared, having somehow expected this one to appear on 10 March instead.

1 March 2013 St David's Day, and the daffodils are in bloom elsewhere in Reading but not in our miserable garden. Hazel and I celebrated the occasion with tasteful pies at Sweeney & Todd's in Castle Street before stuffing envelopes with the print edition of Ansible 308 – whose Bunny Cat cartoon is, Brad Foster explains, a special "Easter-ish tie-in". Clearly I have underestimated the depth of our artist's religious feelings.

11 February 2013 For anyone not utterly bored with the saga of the Langford eyesight: those computer-monitor-only glasses arrived last week and are helping a lot. • Like so many others, I couldn't resist playing with the PULP-O-MIZER Pulp Magazine Cover Generator. Alas, only preset "magazine titles" are allowed – no custom choices like Unbelievable ANSIBLE Stories:

Thog's pulp cover

1 February 2013 I'm struggling with the expensive new glasses, and awaiting a second (not so expensive) pair exclusively for working at the computer screen, which continues to be a pain. I wonder how many typos there still are in today's Ansible 307?

24 January 2013 Oops. Later on 21 January I was too knackered from SF Encyclopedia editing and site updating to gloat below that this mighty enterprise had passed four million words – as recorded in my news note and Graham Sleight's official blog post.

21 January 2013 Yesterday's micro-reviews for the Sunday Telegraph are now online. And the SF Encyclopedia has passed another milestone.

15 January 2013 Early in the New Year the eye surgeons decided I didn't need the expected further operation, at least for another twelve months. At last, after tiresome blurriness in my right eye ever since late January 2012, the problem could be transferred to the opticians. Who demanded the most staggeringly enormous sum I've ever paid for new glasses: these are now awaited with fear and trembling. Let's hope they work.

4 January 2013 At last I've managed to produce Ansible 306.

1 January 2013 What, already? Far too busy here for any kind of inspirational New Year message, but good wishes to anyone who sees this. The January Ansible, which must in any case wait until the printers open again on Thursday, may well be delayed further than that. So it goes.