Cloud Chamber 135
December 2002

Recent upheavals include the arrival of a new (reconditioned) computer, far from cutting-edge but heaps more powerful than the tatty Windows 95 system on which Cloud Chamber has been produced since number 72. Time has thus been wasted in probing the mysteries of local area networks, and testing the spiffy new 21" monitor and DVD software with – acquired purely for experimental purposes – The Fellowship of the Ring. The reward of hubris was a power cut affecting our whole block, beginning at 7:30pm on 3 December and (we later calculated) continuing for 8 1/2 hours. Luckily we'd just finished cooking dinner and had lots of candles to hand.... • On the professional front, I'm in process of signing up to write something unbelievably crass and commercial which is likely to absorb a lot of Langford energy for the first half of 2003. My apologies in advance for any lapses in Acnestis contributions. I have always depended on the kindness of APA editors.

Decline and Fall. Another blow to my diminishing income from reviewing: the HugeSouthAmericanRiver reviews editor has resigned in favour of an sf/fantasy publicity and marketing post at HarperCollins Voyager. No news yet of a successor being appointed. Oh well, looking back at my paid HSAR work shows that the graph has been heading towards oblivion almost from the outset. Started in late 1998, when I did 11 reviews and one feature. 1999: 125 reviews, 8 features (articles, e-mail interviews, obits). 2000: 95 and 4. 2001: 35 and 2. 2002: 28 reviews only, despite my continuing eagerness to cover almost anything they'll let me do....

Double Entendre Dept. '"People develop a very intimate relationship with their Palms," said Palmsource chief executive David Nagle.' (VNU News online, November) • On public autopsies: 'This is one of those issues that divides people down the middle.' (Channel 5 News, 20 November)

Jon Langford, festive card design, circa 1980

Random Reading

Kurt Bonfiglioli, The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery (1999). The author didn't finish this fourth book about the criminal exploits and investigations of his witty, sleazy, decadent and amoral art dealer Charlie Mortdecai (partly based on art-dealing Bonfiglioli himself). There's lots of good rancid stuff here, especially about Oxford academe, but the hidden unpleasantness which emerges as a murder motive seems just a touch too dark to be easily resolved in terms of Charlie's flip, Wodehouseian narration. Perhaps Bonfiglioli himself could eventually have succeeded in this – as he did with his appalling serial rapist in Something Nasty in the Woodshed – but Craig Brown, drafted to write the missing climax, fills the gap with violent slapstick and never really engages with the latent horror.

Mailing 118, November 2002

AMB.'The slightly abrasive apazine of vague sarcasm' would read better if the layout of page 2 weren't so determined to abrade our eyeballs. Centre-justified text is horrid, especially without extra line spacing between paragraphs – the sort of thing Jeff Noon might cruelly inflict on his readers! But congratulations on the 'largely positive' reviews.... • Benedict. You're right to be suspicious of film options; it's never happened to me, but many sf authors have learned not to hold their breath. (Chris Priest may have a tale or two to tell here.) Very few options become finished movies, and most of these are both embarrassing and surprisingly unprofitable for the author. Harry Harrison likes to claim that the best outcome is for the option to be renewed at regular intervals by some time-serving studio official while the film never goes into production. That way, the author enjoys a modest income from Hollywood without the ignominy of being associated with, say, Soylent Green.... • Chris P. On the last day of November we walked to a nearby PBFA book fair, where I found a lovingly preserved first edition of Adam Diment's The Bang Bang Birds with author's photo even as you describe. The dealer's faith in its selling power must have had a recent crisis, since it was marked down from £12.50 to a bargain £9. Think I'll wait for something below your reported 50p. • Maureen. Glad to have a detailed and unsparing account of Novacon which conveys both that a reasonably good time was had and that I didn't miss an awful lot. I would, I think, have been made unreasonably grumpy by the false fire alarm – if I didn't contrive to sleep through the whole thing. (Hazel's perennial fear.) • Cherith. G.K. Chesterton's early essay collection The Defendant (1901) includes 'A Defence of Rash Vows', with examples: 'One man swore to chain two mountains together, and the great chain hung there, it was said, for ages as a monument of that mystical folly. Another swore that he would find his way to Jerusalem with a patch over his eyes, and died looking for it.' • Bruce. In the matter of Dick Jenssen and Elayne being unfamiliar with the name 'Alan Dean Foster', I can only admire their dogged occupation of this awkward position. It's a tough job, but someone needs to do it. • A small cavil regarding your summation of Ken MacLeod's 'The Human Front', 'it's only bloody aliens again!' As I read the story, there are no bloody aliens, only differently evolved human-descended time travellers from alternative futures, in one of which the human form has come to resemble what the ufologists now call Greys. • Penny. All those Diana Wynne Jones books remind me to inform Acnestis that her full account of the children's-authors reception at 10 Downing St appears as a 3 December bulletin at the official website, • Steve J. Tor's proof of The Omega Expedition gave an Oct 2002 publication date, so I hope it's out now. • Chris Gilmore does endear himself, doesn't he? • Chris H. Yes, Harlan Ellison sued the Terminator production company, claiming similarities with various HE scripts, notably 'Soldier' (Outer Limits, 1964). The case was settled out of court. • Everyone: Merry Christmas!