Cloud Chamber 14
July 1982

CLOUD CHAMBER FOURTEEN ... or a bit specially for the final APASF&F, since CC13 is also scheduled for non-overlapping (I hope) distribution in FAPA and FLAP, the two US apas to which I perhaps unwisely belong. Why do these two continue when APA-SF&F is merely the latest in a succession of British attempts which miserably fold? Well, FAPA of course has the attraction of its venerability (the latest quarterly mailing I received was the 178th – no, I haven't had all the others!) and the brilliant contributions to be expected from its famous pros (Carr until recently, Silverberg, and to stretch a point Moskowitz and Chalker) or fans (Bangsund, Boggs, Burbee, Eney, Moffatt, Perdue, Warner etc). Most of these contribute the bare minimum, or nothing at all until nearly or utterly thrown out; Taral recently wrote to me saying the FAPA dues were essentially a subscription to Harry Warner's Horizons, and I can see his point; my own lack of contribution is ascribable to the uninspiringness of FAPA mailings, which resemble a jiffybagful of waste paper. Turnover is high; but FAPA somehow carries on, fuelled by its own laboriously acquired 'prestige'.

FLAP is a small, bimonthly apa with two colossal merits: firstly, each mailing is stapled into one neat 'book' which looks worth keeping; secondly, the arbitrary and tyrannical FLAP editors (Dave Locke & Jackie Causgrove) are able to contribute thick wads of good material from their own typewriters; thirdly, the invitation-only nature of FLAP makes anyone who's invited feel vaguely honoured rather than one of a huge crowd who are being indiscriminately shouted at to come on in.

APA-SF&F ... well, the comparisons are fairly obvious, so I won't go on and on. And – as Chris Priest end I discovered when (more for the hell of it than anything else) we tried to establish an apa among reasonably notable UK fans – fans here do seem to resent the idea of this restricted circulation. "If I do a fanzine I want everyone to see it." "Ah," says Simon Bostock, "but there's nothing to stop you sending it to lots of people outside the apa." "But I don't want to send other people the incomprehensible mailing comments I'm expected to include in an apa-zine." An apazine tends only to work within the relevant apa; unless (like so many US fans) you can allow yourself to be restricted by the apa's horizon, you'll feel restless, cramped, irritable that you're expending so much effort on so few people. Me, I tend to suffer from the sort of creeping perfectionism also known as the Bigger and Better Syndrome (first drafts, second drafts, revisions and rewrites, an endless apparatus of delay), and after all this effort in doing a fanzine one really wants to Show The World. Cloud Chamber 13, six rapid pages straight onto stencil, is largely an attempt to loosen up a bit.... Also included are a few bits left over from Ansible 27, which I hope will be a mite more timely than the Xmas stuff which came out in the last mailing at Easter.

Mailing Comments: Not many. Laser Warp (Kenneth Allen-Davidson) leaves me cold both because I'm not fond of comics and their pointless narrative convention of random emphasis by putting every third word in heavy lettering for no apparent reason, and because 'articles' which promise to 'cover' a range of comics and rush straight through to 'I think I've said enough to rouse your latent curiosity' (with barely more than a list of titles between) are a sure way of making that curiosity stay latent ... Smack (Linda Pickersgill) – my god, the energy, the invective, how dare I cross this woman? As I've since mentioned in Ansiblef a major reason for tackling Greg's financial argument against TAFF ('anyone can afford to go anyway') rather than the, er, ideological argument ('nothing is achieved, all a waste of time, etc') is that the former is a damn sight easier to tackle – especially when space is limited. Exactly how would I go about showing that worthwhile contact was achieved when I took the TAFF express to Noreascon? Some fans I'd hardly met before are now Buddies and voluminous correspondents; many others havewritten saying nice things about actually having met the dread Langford, but of course that might have been mere politesse; could be they're all lying to spare my feelings, could be that the circle of fans I had reasonably close contact with are Not Representative. (I certainly wish I could have got round the country a bit more while over there.) Certainly I felt that the US fans, as individuals (as opposed to the dread Teeming Hordes of Noreascon), were more open to meetings of minds and such – as compared with one or two Americans who appear to have come here and been cold-shouldered a trifle owing to moderate drinking habits (if you can believe everything you read in these fanzines).... You Know You're Only Dreaming (Dugdale/Roskell): oh no, two of my blind spots here, comics again and music (which my hearing troubles have prevented me from enjoying, ever). If the Caw-thorn Jewel in the Skull Is reasonably faithful to the Moorcock original, why bother with a long plot summary? (And is 'Kamag' for 'Kamarg' Cawthorn's error or yours?) This is actually a general point of great importance, since I realized some while ago that any reasonably competent writer, by giving a plot summary, can make a book seem either pretty bloody good or laughably silly: a tool which points either way, and thus not a very good one for serious reviewing. Here the summary of Jewel's plot is neutral in tone and makes no judgements, which is what a review ought to be doing: in fact the only critical assessments made in the whole thing are a couple of sentences about the artwork. Grump, grump.... Roast Turkeyballs (Chuck Connor) Here is a man who defends me against all comers, my one and only true fan. How can cruel people like Graham James, Linda Pickersgill or the voters in the Ansible 'worst thing' poll be so savage to this paragon of sheer niceness, this virtual saint in our midst, this [temporary interruption as men in white coats enter with sedative dose].... Garlic Milkshake (Andy Andruschak): there is nothing which could follow this act except possibly a chocolate malted sirloin steak.... Starmonsters of the Spiral Galaxy (Ray Hughes) – and they accused me of scraping the barrel when I circulated a few old apazines! The second page admittedly embodies some of Simon Bostock's finest writing to date, but ...

Let's look again at Simon's do-it-yourself apazine instructions. Whisk in two ounces of Comments On The Apa, yes, I've done that, and add some Long Mailing Comments (damn, none in the larder – quick, let's substitute the dwarf ones I do have and hope the recipe still works). Other articles and pieces of interest: in goes a nice fresh Cloud Chamber 13 and some only slightly stale Ansible leftovers (which will probably be quite putrescent by the time Head Waiter Bostock brings them to your table, but that's another story). Next, a Farewell Message, ooh, that's a difficult one ... luckily I have this well-preserved GOODBYE which has only been nibbled slightly by mice and the BSFA committee, In it goes. And lastly, Anything Else You Care To Add. Anything? Phew.

I add: Last mailing I droned on about Project Starcast. Project Starcast is now less than three months away, as I understand it. All attempts to get further response from its ostensible masters have failed. Has anyone out there actually heard anything from them this year? Has anyone out there actually paid money to Starcast? Do you expect to get (a) a convention or (b) a refund? State your reasons for belief in either proposition. The next hugecon for us all to worry about will be 'Space-Ex 1984', whose committee last year revealed that the entire administrative effort so far had been devoted to the making of costumes for the committee (so essential a factor in any convention). No, no, I tell a lie, they have also scored the coup of persuading Forrest J Ackerman to attend as a guest, probably: while I have nothing against Ackerman there is a certain awful inevitability in this invitation of the man who not only claims to have invented the term 'sci-fi' but still has the nerve to be proud of it.... (14-7-82)