Cloud Chamber 2
March 1977


from DAVE LANGFORD, 22 Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berks, RG2 7PW, UK. *** This issue dated All Fools' Day 1977. For OMPA mailing number 85. ***

Twenty Years of Uproar

So here we are again. Less relaxed than Frank Denton; less silly than Dave Bridges; less voluminous than Dave Griffin; less illegible than Keith Walker; less musical than Ken Cheslin and with a shorter title than Tom Perry: when you read CLOUD CHAMBER you are spared that nasty, jealousy-provoking quality of excellence in every single department. "But aim, Sir, for the mediocre and your mark is hard to miss." (Sam: Johnson) The mood for quotation is obviously upon me. "Strife and disharmonie are inconquer-able: They spring forth with the seed of Man, and perish onlie at his latter end." (John Donne). Enough of this. I need a new paragraph, this one is getting a bit stifling....

Chris Morgan Writes (WellIdidsendittoacouplafriendsjustafewhonestly ...)

"And so we come to CLOUD CHAMBER 1. I like the Who's Who entry and the conversation with Marjorie Brunner and the silly names (which I don't believe). All the rest seems to have been written by some person called Poole. What else can I say about CC? I suppose the name is appropriate; the saturated gas or air is clearly present, and the brevity of the zine is quite obviously a subtle hint (as if a hint was needed!) that this s.g. or a. is hot, having not yet been cooled by expansion. Do you really expect any of the idiots who receive copies of CC to work that out?"

Your Editor Replies

Actually, no.

Excerpt from my forthcoming Grot the Barbarian Battles the Publishers

"Argh! " yelled the mighty warrior.

The great Grot roared in rage and anger also: "Aarrgghh!"

His opponent retorted in kind: "Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!"

Grot was not to be outdone:"Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhh!"

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggg –" the other began, but was cut off by a cry of despair from the printers: "Any more of those and you'll finish up the flaming type-fount!"

Undeterred, the warrior went contemptuously on. "Ggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" But indeed it wxs so; txexe wxs x sxort delxy wsile x fuxtxex supply of type wxs bxouxxt.

Battle resumed – and quick as a flash, the warrior tried to seize the advantage, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaasaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrr –" Again he was cut off, this time by Grot himself. At the neck. Grot gave a cry of triumph ...

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaxxxxxx –"

Dxmn thxt bloody inefficient printer, he thought xngrily.

(To be discontinued)

A Tale of the Jungle

O gather, Children, round and hear
Of one intrepid Pioneer
Who penetrated Afric's darks
In times when the Safari Parks,
In their untouch'd, primaeval State,
Still tempted Men to horrid Fate.
J. Smith, from England's sceptred Isle
It was that dared the Jungle vile;
Full many a dark and lonesome mile
He travers'd, many Perils fought
(As loyal sons of Albion ought),
And 'Rule Britannia' he sang
By day: his Dinner-Bell he rang
At night, all garb'd in Ev'ning-Dress:
My halting Tongue can scarce express
How well he kept Tradition, and
Upheld the Pride of England's Strand.

The Sabbath came; and on his Cot
Our Hero lay, and labour'd not.
Unlucky chance! there wander'd by
A Band of Anthropophagi
And ere he understood his Plight,
They seiz'd on him, and clutch'd him tight!

Quoth Smith, 'A Briton shall outface
These Creatures of a Lesser Race –
I'll work upon their childish Fear
Of mystick Flame ...' And with a Leer
A Sulphur-Match he boldly struck:
O pity this Explorer's Luck!
The tropick Clime, the humid Air,
Had spoil'd his Matches. In despair
He saw his Magick sputter out.
Meantime, with many a fearsome Shout,
His rude Oppressors lifted him
And through the Forest vast and dim
Proceeded at a headlong Pace
Toward their holy Feasting-Place.

Smith ponder'd on the aweful Fact
Of Capture, and his Brains he rack'd:
A spark of Memory aglow!
That Book** he'd study'd, long ago ...
A rapid Jiggling, to and fro,
Of False Teeth in a fellow's Head
Might rouse a superstitious Dread
in those unknowing of the Art
That shapes each Artificial Part!
He utter'd then a dismal Groan:
His Teeth, alas! were all his own.

Without Decorum, though with Haste,
Within a Cauldron Smith was placed:
He looked upon it, and grimaced
To find this Cooking-pot was soil'd
(For in it many had been boil'd).
O Situation stark and grim!
But no despairing Thoughts for him:
For searching Pockets deep, he found
A handsome Volume – leather-bound.
On this he train'd his glitt'ring Eye,
And with the loud and gladsome Cry
'Before the Dawn is Night most black!'
Perus'd his trusty Almanack;
Wherein his eager Eye and Mind
Did seek a Thing – perchance to find –
O joy! O Rapture unconfin'd!

This very Day, Diana's Sphere
With Phoebus' Car shall interfere:
The latter's beneficial Light
Occluded, Earth is veil'd in Night.
In fact, to state the Matter plain,
The Sun will be eclips'd again ...
To aid a troubled English Gent
This Astronomical Event
Is by some Holy Power sent!
(And is, by Scepticks, thought to be
Suspicious in its frequency.)

Infused with noble Courage, Smith
Address'd his Captors, and forthwith
Declar'd his magick Powers: 'I
Shall cast a Darkness on the Sky!'
He cry'd; and added, that the Gloom
Should linger 'til the Crack of Doom
Unless they swiftly set him free –
'Release me: or I cast on thee
The Dark of the Apocalypse!'
A Savage ask'd, through grinning Lips,
'Do you refer to the Eclipse?'

Unhappy Smith: Their primal Need
Now rous'd the Tribe's uncultur'd Greed,
And yielding to their base Desires,
Without ado they set the Fires
In red Combustion 'neath the Pot:
'Twas aye the rash Explorer's lot.

** All this is truth; I am no blackguard.
The book was writ by Rider Haggard.

Written 1973; previously published by the Ministry of Defence, 1975. (Ed.)

Tangential Thoughts: OMPA Mailing 84

Notes for the unwary: Owing to tone-deafness, I know nothing of this music most of you seem to like. (Sometimes I think our house is the only one in Britain without a colossal hi-fi agglomeration.) Few other things move me to such intense apathy, though I usually try to avoid commenting upon amateur "experimental" verse. "The dry ashes of my soul can be wetted only with the greatest poetry." Now there's pretentiousness for you.

B. (Tom Perry) All mailing comments. I ought not to write mailing comments upon mailing comments on mailings on which I'm not qualified to comment. Is that clear? Ho? I mean, I didn't see mailing 83, snivel, snivel, who will sympathise with this wretch? Besides, every time I say something near Tom, he writes it down and plots to use it against me. My revenge shall involve saying nothing at all about this fanzine with the truly unspeakable name.... Iä! Iä! Shub-Niggurath!

BRENDON COMMON 5 (Frank Denton) When people announce that they think straight onto stencil, I normally begin to shake my heads this stems partly from past experience with writers of the "thank god only 14 lines to the bottom" school, and partly from a consciousness of personal inability to write coherent prose without establishing a first draft as Gamp 1 on the way to the summit. (Sometimes the peak proves very high, and I need not only a Camp 2 – second draft – but extra gallons of tea to help me withstand the altitude. And to strain the metaphor still further, there are too damn many peaks which rise far higher than I can climb ...) – I needn't have worried. BC was fluent, relaxed and very neat. I liked it, // Spoof titles: no doubt a number of people will cite Harry Harrison's Mushroom! Mushroom! // The sight of floors littered with sleeping-bags has become a fairly familiar one since Hazel and I moved into our present house. The week after the wedding, a vast horde assisted us in the task of messing the place up (to make it more homelike); twenty-one of them subsequently stayed the night. This forced great crowding and peculiar intimacy. Ian Maule and Janice Wiles shared the kitchen floor, and were married five months later; Vernon Brown and Pat Baxter shared the landing, with no discernible effect beyond their request for the same sleeping-place at our New Year party.... "The landing is narrow," says Hazel darkly.

DAVE BRIDGES' OMPAZINE (I forget the publisher's name) I flexed it. It fell apart – more precisely, bits fell off it like giant dandruff. I glued it together again. I unglued the parts that shouldn't have been glued together. In scant weeks I had discovered and read each face of the flexagon; it was time to write Comments. These are enclosed in the form of a crossword grid spread over the entire hypersurface of a four-dimensional analogue Klein bottle. This structure is apparently a trifle unstable, and if spatial reality bends or the GPO franks the envelope too hard, it may collapse and cause eversion of the cosmos.... Therefore, if it's not enclosed, go out into the garden with a powerful telescope; my comments upon Mr Bridges should be visible in all directions, exactly at the rim of the universe. So much for hard science. // Maturity: Brian Stableford informs me that those horrifying figures – concerning the huge number of brain cells which die each time you read a fanzine, brush your teeth, pick your nose or think about the death rate of your brain cells – are a load of cobblers. He's a biologist and he should know. I suppose you peak at 18, as you say, but the decay is fairly slow. Phew. // Wish Reading offered opportunities for sledging ... maybe the frozen North has advantages after all. My sole effort in the way of combatting flabby muscles etc, is a little sprinting to and from the bus each day. It's terrible. Even the duplicator is electric.... (Memo: mustn't pick any fights with hard man Bridges.) There has admittedly been a spasm of slightly more violent activity of late, playing "Dungeons and Dragons": I put a lot of muscle into throwing the dice, but it's the hours of non-stop laughing that leave us all exhausted. Very silly game. NB: so many fanzines are devoted entirely to D&D that I keep quiet about it in my own. Of course, if anyone wants inane comments thereon....

A FLOOD PREVENTION MANUAL (David Girffin) The trouble with this one is that I was at Novacon too and wrote up the affair for my own TWLL-DDU 5 (of which I have startlingly few copies left – sorry!). An impartial witness comparing the Girffin and Langford con reports might deduce that, since the similarities are not so many as to exceed the number predicted by random chance, one of the intrepid chroniclers must surely be telling fibs.... Mr Girffin himself admits as much upon page three. "I put it to you that this indicates a defensive attitude and that you did, Sir, attend an entirely different con." "Not so! It was you, o vile Langford, who attended a different con." "I put it to you that your excessive intake of carbonaceous beverages affected your judgment in this matter." "Objection!" "I put it to you that you are even now Under the Influence of Lemonade and that –" "Objection!" "Objection sustained. Counsel must not lead the witness." (The leash is removed from Girffin's neck, the proceedings continues the judge passes into catatonia, all's right with the world.) // The Best Award: Do not think that D. West kept all the funds – oh no! An almost significant amount of the cash was distributed among worthy and deserving causes, John Brunner, I'm told, received fivepence.

OFF TRAILS (Keith Walker's Official Organ) Genzines: It seems reasonable that, OMPA being a private organization, members should be encouraged to issue zines for OMPA alone (plus, perhaps, a few copies for friends and so on). On the other hand, since no-one objects to the circulation of genzines and I should imagine everyone wants to see each outside production of an OMPA member – why not a carefully-chosen modicum of encouragement of such circulation? That is, a genzine counts for OMPA activity at a ratio of 5:1 (say), so a 15 page genzine would count for some OMPA activity – 3 pages – without making it too easy to simply send one's genzine in for a year's OMPA activity. To ensure that a proper apazine appears also, there could be an additional ruling that half of the minimum activity must appear in the form of apazines. On the other hand, if you just don't like genzines ... // Seeing OT makes me realise how much harder Keith tries when producing FF. I like the undertone of "I know this is cruddy. It's diabolical. And That's The Way I Like It. Go on, cast your stone, it won't be the first. Ouch. Go on! Hit me again! Ooooo, I love it ... ((rest of manifesto illegible due to smudging))" // How to acquire thousands of new members: put it about via the BSFA's MATRIX that this incredibly exclusive organisation is prepared to accept one or two carefully screened new members. Hint that it's an easy introduction to the wonderful world of fanzines. Tell 'em that only through OMPA can they learn how to write stories that will sell.... No? // Actually, Keith, since the standing jokes about your fanzines' tattiness have become a rooted tradition, it's good that you yourself don't mind! A gag about FF may be the only way for some half-baked humorist to raise a laugh; it would be cruel to take this away from him.... And time, you say, is too short for improvement? Agreed, that correcting errors with corflu is time-consuming – but tapping the space bar after each full stop would lengthen the typing time by mere seconds, and the extra space used would be negligible. // An organisation like OMPA must stand on three legs – quality, regularity, quantity. Hone can be abandoned. Thin or mediocre zines deaden response and deter prospective members who examine the mailings; OT lists an argument for regularity, though not a terribly convincing one – if member X is going to publish at the last minute, or push out the minimum activity in a single spasm each year, he'll do this no matter how mailings are spaced. Regularity is needed to maintain continuity, to prevent topics dying and mouldering in the lifeless space between mailings. // Oops, I'm getting didactic. Apologies for this. Youth's heady idealism, you know.

WHATSIT 31 (Ken Cheslin) For me, thoze llnking ... dots ... make the sentences seem few but immensely long and fatiguing. More than any other, this zine gave me the culture-shock of "this is OMPA and different from anything I have known"! Better wait 'til I'm used to it before yer actual literary and socio-political evaluations in depth.... // FAN DIRECTORY: why? Is there any real substitute for getting in amongst fandom? The inexorable route – BSFA, Little Gem Guide, a con or two, subs to MAYA and CHECKPOINT, a slide downhill into the rest of fanzine fandom – I found it horribly easy; it should be easy for anyone who wants to be a fan. (I didn't come via the BSFA myself, but they seem to be doing a pretty good job at present.) Just who needs a Fan Directory? Such a massive compilation could really intimidate the neo who's slowly gaining confidence through his first few contacts; deeper in, he can find things out through editors and others with an extensive range of gossip and addresses. (The pre-neo, the guy without contact at all, can't be helped in any way until he finds us.) You suggest a list of questions, Ken, which the directory could answer: "Who's active?" LGG, FF and Checkpoint give good coverage here.... "Who's about still?" – active fans mostly know, others have only to become a bit more active.... "Who's new? Where to send sample copies?" – but why shouldn't the onus be on the neo or Old&TiredFan to make himself known, to ask for those sample copies? To repeat the earlier muttering: if he has enough contact with fandom to get a directory, he knows how to push further in. I don't think there are any real short cuts.... // And having shown again what an argumentative sod I am when in the mood, I must admit that the idea of preparing a Fan Directory is certainly appealing. The sheer unbridled power! Power to speak one's mind in a reference book! Power to omit Greg Pickersgill! To tell the world the real truth about Keith Walker, as soon as I make it up! The arguments and feuds that would result from the final compilation! The second, even more controversial edition! Blood flows at Eastercon! A proliferation of rival Fan Directories! If I complete it by April, my own Fan Directory will appear in this mailing, in the pages of TWLL-DDU 6. It won't have any addresses, but maybe it'll raise a hollow laugh or two....

// Thus end the mailing comments. I can't think of anything useful to say about our Glorious People's Constitution at present ... besides, these notes have had too many serious bits already. Iechydd da! //