Cloud Chamber 4
March 1980

D West "Langford for TAFF" cartoon

This here is CLOUD CHAMBER 4, produced by Dave Langford of 22 Northumberland Avenue, Reading, Berks, RG2 7PW, for what should with luck be the only mailing of FEAPA. The above cartoon (by D. West, for those of you who missed the subtle stylistic hints to this effect) expresses the official view of FEAPA: all those who do not support me for TAFF are hereby expelled. All those who do support me are also expelled, since FEAPA is being dissolved. FEAPA – the apa for people who don't like apas. Bellman and Chief Scapegoat: Chris "I don't know what came over me, officer" Priest. Snark and Assistant Scapegoat: Dave "I vas only followink orders" Langford.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: it was the blank aftermath of Seacon, and like a good little GUFF administrator I had asked the winner, John Foyster, to dinner at the Langford hovel. I am often very generous with Hazel's vast abilities in the cooking line; generous to a fault, which was why I'd allowed her to show off by cooking not only for John but also for his lady friend Jenny and his devoted chauffeur Chris Priest. Like a good host, I had done my part towards the festivities by haggling with the local supermarket over their cheapest and hugest bottle of wine (since Chris had to drive back afterwards I also had to drink a lot of it). It was in this atmosphere of intense fannish bonhomie that we all leant back after dinner, burped a few times and found we'd run out of things to talk about. The conversation thus ran something like this....

"Bugger this blank aftermath of Seacon."

"Too right."

"Maybe we could help Hazel wash up?"

"No. I hate other people washing my nice dishes."

"Been no bloody fanzines since Seacon, either. Seacon could mean the end of UK fandom for years. We're all played out etc etc."

But at this point the light of inspiration shines from the eyes of CHRISTOPHER PRIEST (for it is he!). He rises, and hidden orchestras supply lofty music to counterpoint the effulgence of his great mind. A constant succession of lightbulbs appears above his noble cranium, tinkling harmoniously to the floor; a single clear sunbeam strikes down through the crumbling ceiling to illumine his marble brow. But soft: he speaks!

"UK fandom is crumbling into an interregnum of anarchy which will endure for thirty thousand years. I have seen the future, and it doesn't work. There is only one solution, my friends. We must set up a Foundation of all that is best and brightest in fanwrit-ing, a Foundation which will endure through the dark ages following the fall of the Weston Empire, and this time we won't let that sod Nicholls get to be administrator...."

The audience cheers, applauds, falls off its chair.

... Possibly my memory misleads me. This reconstruction apart, all that Chris and I really remember is suddenly having thought an apa might be an interesting notion, with the general hope that deadlines and regularity and things might perhaps spur the super fanwriters whom we'd invite into more effort than otherwise we would have seen from them. That's all, really. Except that the madness went on into the devising of RULES which were part serious and part parody of other apas (I think), and which most readers of this will already have seen. By way of self-mockery we decided on the title FEAPA; by way of coyness, we merely titled the invitational flyer 'Fannish [typeface] Amateur Press Assoc'. Chris had the title Public Exploder – I was the Impaler of Distortions; ten boring rules were also promulgated (invitation only, no waiting list, minimum contribution 6 sides A4 per mailing, two mailings a year, mailing comments discouraged, no postmailings, no outside distribution, no admission of what FEAPA stood for, £1 annual fee, 30 copies to be provided). I confess right away that I had little or no intention of obeying Rule 7: I've been in OMPA (o god!) and always ran off enough copies of Cloud Chamber to hand out a good many on whim to friends, and the same would go for FEAPA. Only this time most of the fanwriters I liked had been invited anyway, the list having been put together by crazed Priest, Langford and Foyster from dim memories of past glories recalled at that same dinner.

The madness has now passed. If it weren't that Mike Glicksohn actually sent in a mailing, while Terry Hughes, Paul Kincaid, Alan Dorey, Joe Nicholas and Joyce Scrivner all expressed varying degress of commitment, FEAPA would have been allowed to die as quietly as anything can die when D. West himself has decided to enter upon bloody denunciations thereof (see below). This way is probably better, since the poor misled originators of FEAPA can issue a final statement of apology, contrition, defiance, apathy and nausea about the whole thing. This red mist come in front of my eyes, you see, officer, I get the headaches, it's all 'cos I was brutally treated when little, just crying out for help I was, it's the sickness of society you've got to blame for this, I mean, FEAPA was nothing but legitimate protest...,

Our Fan Mail

Ian Williams, 6 Greta Tce, Chester Rd, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear

Dear Chris: Thanks for the chance to join FEAPA. But I'm afraid I must decline, for a number of reasons, one of which is I do not write good enuf to do 12 pages a year. If I cud writ 12 gud pages I'd want to share them with the world rather than limit them to 30 people who aren't even encouraged to comment.

That's the main reason. The other is I think (Hell I've been treading on a few toes lately, so why stop now) it's a bloody stupid idea. British fandom is small enough without encouraging the development of an even more narrow elitist group to go around making obscure remarks to each other at cons and swapping knowing winks. If you want to do a small circulation private fanzine it's easy enough anyway without resorting to all this crap. I

I may be going to be cast into the outer darkness for saying this, but I'm surprised someone of your intelligence and integrity should come up with such a daft idea.

D West, 48 Norman Street, Bingley, West Yorks, BD16 4JT

Dear CP: Received invitation to join FEAPA. Being a suspicious person I thought at first this must be a joke, but on consideration decided it couldn't be, since there's not much point in satirising something which doesn't exist. If there are any British apas they must qualify as secret societies. And who cares what the Americans get up to.

Anyway, assuming this is serious, I neither approve of it nor intend to support it. In the context of British fandom apas are either pointless or pernicious. The audience is small enough already and any deliberate restriction is just a silly kind of snobbery. The self-deprecatory title doesn't do anything to excuse this. (Besides, if you're going to discourage mailing comments you won't even have the joys of incestuousness.) The only thing that apas encourage is space-filling – got to get a few pages together for the next mailing. And I can do without deadlines that I have to pay to meet. If I write something good I want everybody to read it. If I write something mediocre it should be thrown away. What you are going to wind up with – after the first flush of enthusiasm – is something like Gannetcrapbook.

I must admit to feeling a slight twinge at the thought of missing something. That, I suppose, is the main reason why other people will join: fear of being left out. Fortunately, I am armoured by indolence and the near-certainty that the whole idea is doomed right from the start. Who needs it? I prefer the Astral Leauge, which is certainly daft enough but doesn't demand any laborious maintenance.

The only good reason for a limited circulation apa would be the use of esoteric methods of reproduction – colour prints, wood and lino cuts, silk screen and stuff like that. Such processes are interesting, but get pretty tedious if you have to produce too many copies. But it doesn't seem there's enough British fans who can draw, let alone handle anything more fancy.

One good point: this arrived just in time to be included in the general denunciation of just about everything I'm writing for Ocelot, Peasant-bashing time is here again. (Chorus: Who does he think he is?) Even Deadloss gets a mention.

That was D's letter to Chris; my letter wasn't about FEAPA but has more to say about the article mentioned. Extract follows.

"The forthcoming Death and Destruction article does mention you several times – in fact you get several pages. I suppose I should let it fall on you like a thunderbolt (for maximum effectiveness) but I've given Dorey and Nicholas (the other stars) enough warnings about what's in store so I suppose I should tell you too. So you can start worrying about being both Middle Class Fandom and A Bad Example.... A fine article it is – should annoy almost everyone oneway or another. (I am the only person in fandom who knows anything about anything and you shitheads better pay attention....) Poor Joseph will be sitting up through the night drafting and redrafting fifteen page letters of rebuttal....

PS: Got FEAPA thing – bad idea – also denounced. Everybody denounced. Grudging approval for self.

Andrew Stephenson, 19 Du Pre Walk, Wooburn Green, High Wycombe, Bucks

Dear Chris & Dave: Thank you again for the invitation to join FEAPA. Having now had a chance to think my reply through at leisure, I feel that, on balance, I should decline.

To begin with, the major problem is that I'm not sure this isn't another of those gags that are so prevalent these days. Certain oddities of wording in the invitation almost impose that conclusion on me.

However, I have Chris's assurance – given verbally last night – that it is all genuine; so, for the sake of the game, I'll play along. The next difficulty is one of ethics. (Yes, ethics in fandom, yet! Wait around and you might hear such words as 'antidisestablishmentarianism'.) You see, if my interpretation of the title is correct (and I never was too keen on crosswords), doubts over the good sense of starting such an organisation immediately interfere. Not at all sure I'd care to belong to a group calling itself the 'Fannish Essay Amateur Press Association' – never was too keen on essays, either, see; and having to fake enthusiasm each time around would be a dreadful drain. Similar, though less humorous, excuses might be applicable if the typeface proved to be the other one in the IBM range which begins with 'E'.

Finally, the coup de grace. No, not the lawn-mower: I simply can't see myself being able to deliver the goods: six pages of A4 is more than I've done in the way of real writing lately; I could never face Our Maggie. Accordingly, must excuse self on grounds of incompetence.

But thanks again for regarding me as a potential essayist.

Harry Bell, 9 Lincoln St, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, NE8 4EE

Dear Chris: Thanks for the invitation to join FEAPA but I guess I'm going to have to say "No thanks", principally because were I able to write 12 pages of A4 a year I'd prefer to reach as wide an audience as possible.

... I can't say I'm against elitism, but do you really feel that that is what fandom needs at the moment? So few fanzines are being produced that it seems rather negative to encourage those capable of good writing to take themselves out of general circulation. British fandom, anyway, has always seemed something of an apa in itself – to such an extent that apas within the UK never seem to last.

Maybe my problem is simply that, having shaken off the limitations of PADs, I've been wary of apas ever since.

Anyway, thanks, but no thanks.

Me again. The above letters were sent along by Chris with a covering note saying "Just a sample of our fan-mail. I happen to value these people's opinions, and cannot help but agree...." Well, I myself value the opinions of most of these people (even if Ian and Harry are supporting the wrong man for TAFF, and D is about to denounce me and all my works as a minor part of his coming holocaust, and I remember Andrew was wrong about something once, maybe back in 1973 ....); along with Chris, I am not afraid to say that really all the time we were just joking – no, no, be honest with your readers, Langford – that it's just possible that we might have been sort of, if you insist on putting it that way, wrong.

But with good intentions, oh, ever such good intentions, even if I can't remember precisely what they were. (Chris?)

D has rather unnervingly put his finger on the main reason for joining an apa in the first place – the awful fear of being left out. I joined OMPA all those years ago (1976, I think) mainly because Dave Bridges had signed up – and of course it turned out that Dave joined for the reason allowed even by D, that of being able to do elaborate and arcane things with fanzine production which wouldn't work with a large audience. God, I still remember the hexaflexafanzine .... Even this isn't much of an excuse for an apa, mind you, because (as someone said above) anyone is perfectly free to restrict circulation providing he/she doesn't mind Kevin Easthope screaming blue murder about his/her elitism. So ... Chris? Why did we start this damned thing anyway?

We're very, very sorry. Not that any such plea for mercy will do any good with a hanging judge like D, but I thought I'd just say it.

I had the sense to get out of OMPA fairly quickly, anyway, and even have some copies left of the first two issues of Cloud Chamber as distributed therein. Anyone who wants to gloat over such things as the silliest letter I ever received from Graham Poole, or my only piece of *fan poetry*, or incomprehensible mailing comments, is welcome (while stocks last) to send a 10p stamp and receive also the third issue – done for the much less pernicious apa WOOF, intended to promote international amity at Worldcons and freely available (Bruce Pelz was trying hard to give the thing away with little success). My bit is dated a few days before Seacon and represents a burning-off of nervous energy. Not specially recommended.

Statement of position follows. No more FEAPA, and good riddance. Ansible should continue regularly at one- or two-month intervals. (UK sub is 60p for 4 issues – subscribe now!) Twll-Ddu is waiting for me to have a suitable idea or two for it: real soon now. Drilkjis has just appeared and will appear again whenever Kevin and I feel up to it. However, non-fannish things do loom. I have signed a contract with Arrow and must deliver an sf novel by the end of the year? a collaboration is being commissioned by Webb & Bower, I think, also for delivery this year (that's the one for which I've been requesting silly 'scientific' quotes); and various shorter things also keep coming on and off the boil. However, I've no intention of getting out of fandom or anything like that: indeed, at the time of writing I'm engaged in a joint TAFF fundraising zine with Jim Barker, and if I win TAFF I'll be doing a trip report longer than Peter Weston's. At present I have a rotten cold? any feeling of melancholy in the above can be put down to germs getting into the corflu or vice-versa. Life is hard. This was typed on the 3rd March 1980. So was the final stencil of Ansible 7, a much better fanzine than this nonsense. 6 pages is a lot. Even 5 is a lot.

Infinitely Improbable

... I suppose that this final random news miscellany is my favourite part of Ansible: might as well use the Overflow & Miscellaneums from A7 to fill out this FEAPA thingy, since after all it is not in the least elitist and is being sent to quite a few people .... // Even since the last page there have been Changes. Taff-Ddu, the TAFF fundraiser Jim & I are preparing, will also be Twll-Ddu 17 (since it's taking up the effort and even the material which would otherwise have become an ordinary TD): but it will only be available for £0.50, all of which goes to TAFF. (60p by post; a similar amount in the USA, to be fixed by our US agent – probably Joyce Scrivner – and announced ever so soon. // Chris Carlsen, famed hack author of Shadow of the Wolf, The Bull Chief etc, is to share the fate of Elmer T Hack, only worse: Rob Holdstock has decided that Carlsen must perish utterly – "because," Rob explains, "I, I mean he, might be tempted to write another hack work for sordid reasons like making money." Your editor was unconvinced: Rob, however, regained his credibility by adding: "Of course if I really need the money I can always discover a lost work by Carlsen ...." Chris P Carlsen is still receiving fan mail from ardent fourth-formers all over Britain, who are hooked on the seas of blood and desperate for more. // Jan Howard Finder, now a pro editor of great filthiness, wants famous UK hacks to submit 'first contact' stories for hardcover publication (Taplinger) at $30 per thousand words. PO Box 428, Latham, NY 12110, USA. // Rob Jackson is acting as UK FAAn awards agent: nominating forms are available on request from him (or me): return to him at 8 Lavender Rd, West Ewell, Surrey KT19 9EB. Since the deadline is/was 31 March, there's no need to take this too seriously .... // GUFF, celebrated UK-Oz fan fund, should be on again next year (I've just remembered). Fans interested in a sponsored trip to Australia in 1981 should drop me a line or otherwise declare interest. No commitment is required at this stage: the Administrators (Langford, Foyster) merely wish to test the water .... // Fans are being warned to book accommodation early for Noreascon (Boston this August): Hugo nomination forms have been out for a while, including a new non-fiction category (vote for WAR IN 2080!) and a welcome absence of the grotty Gandalf novel award, which merely competes with the Hugo novel category. // BSFA/SF Foundation one-day convention plans have been scrapped, naturally enough, along with the Foundation. George Hay, however, may have something to add. // So I don't have material to fill 6 sides of A4? So expel me ....

* feapa * feapa * feapa * feapa * feapa * feapa * feapa * feapa * feapa * poot

Great lines from THE TROGLODYTES by Nal Rafcam (Digit paperback):

'The echoing of the explosion left the commandos effete' ... 'No human could have endured the immense heat, let alone superhumans' ... 'On Earth the ecumenical collapse of world cities drew the attention of the public eye to terra firma' ... 'The period of strife and universal privation was malinger^-ing' ... 'They had to wear camouflage against the strong daylight' ... 'If we are underground at any depth the rock up there must be as hard as carbon' ... 'The fall was too great. Death had supined' ... '"Zlit!" he rasped' ...

from Dave Langford
22 Northumberland Avenue
Reading, Berks.