Cloud Chamber 1
December 1976


from DAVE LANGFORD, 22 Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berks, RG2 7PW, UK

Who's This Langford Then?

Good question. The Reading Group asked it too: they'd just been publishing a series of "pen-portraits" of any members who could be lured into the gigantic egoism of writing about themselves (a thing which fans, being modest, seldom do). Naturally, after shy, retiring Tom Jones, Keith Freeman and Chris Fowler had laid bare their not-quite-innermost souls, it was time to scrape the self-effacing dregs from the barrels me. I was easily persuaded to dash off the following for the Reading Group Newsletter – it was that or collate VECTOR....

Penportrait (good Cornish name that)

"Born at an early age in 1953; when only seven, discovered complete run of GALAXY magazines. Ruined eyesight through surreptitious reading of serials by torchlight etc., following parental commands to sleep. Hearing ruined by increasing volume of said commands. At ten, knew too much about SF; discovered Marvel Comics. Later, at school, produced underground magazine VOLE; almost too successful, nearly resulting in expulsion.... At Oxford, discovered Winnie-the-Pooh and rubbed shoulders with such greats as Rob Jackson until told to go away. Sank through hierarchy of O.U. SF Group until forced to become President under assumed name "Fanglord". Rubbed shoulders with W.H. Auden (accidentally, in the street, once) and Chris Priest (who said "Do it again sweetie"). Inconspicuously drunk at various SF conventions. Left college under faint cloud of gunpowder smoke, with third-class degree and threat of third degree in event of failure to marry latest President, Hazel. Tiring of Winnie-the-Pooh, discovered fandom and sold certain SF stories. Subsequently indulged power-lust by marrying (Hi, Hazel), publishing seven fanzines in eight months and being conspicuously drunk at more conventions. Professed ambition: to bring the semicolons back into fandom. Secret ambitions (don't tell anyone, now): to sell a novel, run a convention, rule the world and appear in the Reading SF Group newsletter in a pen portrait. One down, three to go."

Party Political Conversation

One thing left out of the above was my job with the Ministry of Defence. This can be embarrassing sometimes; I have this tendency to run into Marjorie Brunner at parties, and ...

MB (disingenuously): "And where do you work?"

Me (Thinks: Not again): "Civil service, actually."

MB: "What part of the civil service?"

Me: "Ministry of Defence, actually."

MB: "Ministry of War, you mean, Ministry of War! John, there's someone here who works for the Ministry of War! Tell him how you used to march on Aldermaston, John ..."

Mr Brunner then made urbane noises, and after a while I crept away. This was at Flo Russell's last party, laid on in honour of Forrest J. Ackerman: I sat at the great man's feet or thereabouts and listened to his complaints about thieving fans,

"Whenever I gave a party," he said, "there would always be something missing from the Collection afterwards." Pause. "Of course there were some books I wished people would take away, but no-one ever touched them...."

"Like Perry Rhodan," I said wittily. "Oh, sorry."

Mrs Ackerman gave me a lingering look. I smiled with all the charm I could muster and retreated in the general direction of the food, the drink and Marjorie Brunner.

She smiled sweetly. "Where," she enquired, "did you say you worked?"

Fission Fragments

At the One Tun: "He had it in his hand most of the night, but then he just let it dangle" (Dai Price on Lord St. Davids). American advertising agency: "Write off now for The Advertising Man's Badge, saying IT'S NOT CREATIVE UNLESS IT SELLS". HMSO description of a computer programme: "Infinite medium calculations can only be done as a multi-run problem, even if there is only one run". From the Harwell Information Bulletin listings: "Study of guinea pigs fed swiss chard grown on municipal sludge-anended soil (A.K. Furr et al) ... Mood and lithium in drink water (S.L. Oliver et al) ..." And did you know that British Patent 1378246 is for an "Implantable organ stimulator"?

Useful Names for SF Characters

(Collected by Hazel – all authentic.)

Mrs M. Gabbitus, Mrs Adrian V.L. Biggie, J.H. Sloots, R. Groarke, Mrs M. Kuipe, Mrs J.E. Fishlock, Mrs Clarice Eiciesia Bovell, A.J. Rabbit, D.S. Thut (prev. Jurgen), G. Batcup, Miss U.E. Puttrus, Miss M.I. Barefoot, Miss Marie Edwina Oxborrow, Miss Jessie Trotter Trainer, S.H. Gooi, R. Extremera, Miss Dierdre Narielle Sherry, Miss Y.A.P. Batclip, W.D. Boys-stones, Ms. Baldy, C.M. Hottenroth-Roffey, B.G. Bearwish, G.L. Sheepwash, M.J. Slythe, Mrs P. Seagroat, Oreste Capone, E.A. Bearpark, M.J. Startup, Elias Theodore Berber, F.J. Squibb, G.T. Ellis-Chicken, W.G. Boggis, Mrs Venus, Mr Sexty, R.C. Bong, R. Foggo.

Most worrying was a gentleman lately out of prison. His name was something like O'Neill; but in future he wished to be known as Langford.

Safety Valve

Like Rob Jackson (Hoo boy), I tend to pull in more mail on TWLL-DDU than I can print – some good stuff, even. Enterpreneur Jackson, when not flogging the fanzines I send him to other, more gullible Gannets (yes, Rob, my spies are everywhere), solves the problem by offloading the material onto other, more gullible fan-editors. I'm too mean to do that. Therefore CLOUD CHAMBER will feature incredibly brilliant letters from writers too long-winded to fit into T-D. And in lieu of incredible brilliance, let's begin with Mr "Never mind the quality, count the flyers" Poole, whose loc I have cunningly permitted to become incredibly dated before appearing for the first time ever in print....

Take it away, Gra. More pages next time, I hope, if there is a next time; meanwhile Happy New Year, Roberts for TAFF, and watch the semicolons.

You Fink, Why Didn't You Print It In TWLL-DDU?

A continuous drumming permeates the air as a small figure huddles over the table hammering on the typewriter keys. The figure is wild eyed, pupils dilated. The hair is unkempt.

Occasionally the drumming stops and a mutter is heard "Not long to go, not long to go ..." usually followed by a raucous laugh as another sheet of paper is tossed aside.

The dwarf now shuffles through files, throwing things around the table until it finds the object of its search. Another laugh echoes round the room "Only eight to go ... and then I'm through, gafiate!" A pile of envelopes, paper and carbons are flung into the air and scatter round the room. One goes into the goldfish bowl.

* * *

In the cold light of morning my night of madness becomes apparent. It would appear that I had a brainstorm upon picking up several box files of unanswered letters and had then proceeded to answer every one of them. Letters, carbons, partly addressed envelopes litter the furniture and the floor. There are even a few letters left on the table. I look around the room. Floating in the goldfish bowl is a letter addressed to TV TIMES "Dear Sir, I saw an episode of your programme SPACE 1999 and straightaway I had to write you a letter of appreciation ..." I leave it in the bowl.

As I negotiate the wreckage on the floor something flutters about my head. Startled, I hit out in terror – "Gerroff!" but it is only a letter to David Bridges "Christ, what a load of crap ONE-OFF THREE was, pure juvenile drivel penned by a complete ..." the rest of it had been torn off in my fight. I make no attempt to find it.

Looking for somewhere to sit I push the litter aside and find a letter to Don West "I absolutely refute your suggestion that I am breeding a new race of fans aimed at taking over fandom under the auspices of the BSFA. David Lewis? Tom Jones? Alan Stewart? Never heard of them ..."

Intrigued by all the paper on the floor I pick some of it up at random.

To Boris and various other people "C-Y-C-L-0-T-R-0-N, not SCROTUM, dummy!" To Joseph Nicholas "This is the start of a fifteen page letter of comment on your letter of comment on my letter of comment on your SPI 1 loc ..." To Janice Wiles "When are you going to knit the rest of my jumper so I can wear your SPI 4 loc?" To Dave Rowe "I'd like to make a public apology for knocking out your tooth at Boakcon. I didn't realise it had been ripped off by Tim Apps from Dave Langford." To Brian Hampton "Thanks for editing the Beneluxcon film at Martin and Liese's party. I ran it through the projector last night and now I'm busy sticking it back together again ..." To Bob Shaw "Thanks for your article but it wasn't the usual SPI standard so I'm sending it to Dave Cockfield instead." To the Copyright Receipt Office "1 can't send you the first twenty eight issues of CYCLOTRON since I haven't published them yet. You received COPY no.29 ..."

To Tim Apps "Here's the latest instalment of your blackmail money ..." To Kev Easthope "What would you give me for a certain photograph ..." To Mike Glicksohn "My Ghod, you haven't locced SPI. Was it that bad ..." To George Hay "No, I don't want to put CYCLOTRON onto microfiche ..." To Dave Langford "I'm sorry I keep apologising for printing that story ..."

To Liese "Aw, c'mon, everyone knows SKYCON is being staged at the hotel in Heathrow Airport" To the Harveys "Don't worry, I've heard of you" To Paul Dillon "Your idea of a nude sitting at a typewriter dreaming of Harry Harrison is great!" To Greg Pickersgill "You haven't written anything scathing about SPI – it can't be that good." To Ian Maule "Do you mean to say you really cannot recall what happened in the toilets at Boakcon?" To Terry Jeeves "I'm returning some of your soggies... they didn't go down well with the goldfish." To Dave Lewis "Look, Dave, pretend I've never heard of you – I'm getting a reputation for introducing wild eyed neos into fandom." To Jean Staves "... and this photograph shows two people in a compromising ..."

To Photomech "Can you please give me a quotation for ray next publication SPINELESS. It will have a flyer called SPIT and attached to that SPEW and SPOUT. Next month, when I've run out of SP's, I'll be publishing SERCONDOM and flyer LITTLE PRICKS." To Chris Fowler "Goshwowboyoboyoutasight, two VECTORS, oh, all right, three VECTORS. An' a MATRIX an' a Membership List. An' An' ..." To Boris "When do you get out on parole?" To Sam Long "I'm running out of puns. Can you help?" To Janice Wiles-Maule "I don't care if e is the most common letter in the English language. If I have the tendancy to write: existence with an a then at least grant me the independance to do so." To Dave Langford "How much more of this can you take?"

To the BSFA "... and the last episode of the SURVIVORS was absolutely brilliant with superb character acting and ..." To Fred Hemmings "I've invented these two new D&D characters – one is a dictatorial civil servant

movie mogul, leader of one, the other is the follower, a yes-man ex-hotel manager (failed), BSFA official (failed) and human being (failed) ..." To Dave Kyle "What do you mean 'We're sorry, but we cannot accept you as a member of St Fantony'?" To Keith Walker "Can you please send a legible copy of FANZINE FANATIQUE 20 ... on second thoughts, don't bother."

* * *

I pause, head reeling. I sway over to the table and find the typewriter. And there, sitting in the carriage, was this letter. Yes, this letter.

"I wonder what it is like to lead a normal life?" – Gra Poole

Footnote: "All those potential SP names have had the unwelcome effect of driving me into raptures over the thoughts of numerous new zines with titles like SPAWNICATION, SPERMICIDE, SPOOLE, SPORADIC, SPASMODIC TALES, SPUD-GUN WARFARE, SPUTRID, SPONGY THOUGHTS, and, and ... Thank god, my thoughts are getting spongy.

"I hate driving into raptures – doesn't do my no-claims bonus any good – but at least they are softer than lamp-posts." (Thank you Mr Poole.)