Cloud Chamber 15
July 1982

CLOUD CHAMBER FIFTEEN ... something from Dave Langford for the August FLAP, I hope, in addition to CC13, which is multiply scheduled for FLAP, FAPA (sense of deja vu coming up for some of you folks) and the final mailing of yet another doomed British apa, APA-SF&F. I don't know why 'doomed' and 'British' should be sort of tautologous when applied to an apa, but somehow the soil seems not right for them here: APA-SF&F, started by a bright young fan determined to import this bright new idea for (though he didn't know it) the umpteenth time, failed to attract interest despite some not at all bad contributions to early mailings – on the whole more interesting than the overrated FAPA. I still think FLAP is the most interesting apa I'm involved with, he remarked, shamelessly grovelling and omitting to mention the total number of apas suffering Langford involvement (3)(or 5 if you count earlier dead British ones such as OMPA and FEAPA). If nothing else, the classy stapling-into-one-volume makes the result look worth keeping even if it's only boring old Cloud Chamber.

It is the 24th of July. New-house hysteria as reported in CC13 has died away somewhat, and we're lying round with a peaceful post-Armageddon feeling: the builders have ripped out and replaced (in fetchingly different colours) the various squashy spots of downstairs flooring which turned out to be supported by mighty joists whose texture now resembled a loofah; a pervading pong of something which might be paraffin indicates the chemical damp-proofing injected into all ground-floor walls; a further pervading pong of vermicide has something to do with the hideous deaths of innumerable woodworm (at a price suggesting they were individually tracked down by private detective agencies and hit with small gold hammers); the formerly musty and disgusting cellar now boasts a smart new ceiling, a series of air-vents and a striplight (making it quite inappropriate to instal the planned cask of Amontillado); the Great Slug which once ravaged at will over the breakfast-room carpet and any shirts I left there has suffered death or exile; the new buyer from Cambridge ('sucker' is, I believe, the technical term) has signed contracts committing him to pay us huge sums of money for 22 Northumberland Ave next Friday, on pain of a death worse than fate; God's in his heaven and all's right with the world, except that the roof still needs doing and several rotted window-frames have to be replaced and the chimneys need to be swept and I have countless deadlines to meet and what am I doing typing stencils for FLAP anyway?

It was sentences like the above which once made the reputation of our old friend Joe Nicholas. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

FLAP 16: Roy Tackett – It isn't merely the tautology of 'DNA and RNA nucleic acids' which make the claims of those fortified shampoos so silly. Exactly what good are nucleic acids supposed to do your hair? They're not going to do anything at all unless – as we hope is extremely unlikely – they penetrate virus-like to the nuclei of your very cells and start them doing – well, what? Most likely they're nucleic acids from yeast, conjuring up fantasies of a homeostatic fannish body-system with its own built-in alcohol supply ... but of course nothing so jolly is going to happen. The whole business is a load of cobblers, and nucleic acids are just a handy magic word: in the past we've had wonder tonics with 'magnetism', 'electricity', 'radium' etc, and I eagerly await the first miracle cure to incorporate alleged black holes. (See also Harold Morowitz's essay collection The Wine of Life, which among other things expresses the above at much greater and more well-informed length, and which I'd quote extensively if it weren't in a cardboard box I know not where upstairs)....

Mike Shoemaker – well, Eric Mayer really, since it's Eric's incidental comment about his 'hundreds of books' which strikes a sudden chord. As mentioned in CC13, we have over 7000 to worry about, most of them 'mine' rather 'Hazel's' in terms of who bought them and who reads them. Though reproved by such as Darroll Pardoe, who apparently keeps his collection down to a conservative few dozen, I can't throw books away nor even sell them unless they're duplicates. Over the years I've formulated various Excuses: "I read very fast and re-read a lot" (true, but whatabout all the books I know I'll never re-read? One probably being Piers Anthony's Blue Adept, read in a spirit of conscientious fairness after not buying several of his wallet-busting epics: chapter one sent me unprecedentedly to sleep on a bus, and I gave up when the numbwitted hero started fighting a dragon only to realize suddenly that he'd forgotten to bring a sword. Good grief); "I need them as research material for my literary work" (moderately true, I suppose, but not convincing); "I've bought this bloody great huge house in order to accommodate all these books and now you say I should get rid of some???" (yes, I like that one). Meanwhile I'm trying to think of a good reply to the usual question "Have you read them all?" – apart from the usual stifled "Every cretin who comes in here asks that." ("Sorry – what did you mumble then?" "I said, all of them except Blue Adept by Piers Anthony.")

Jackie Causgrove – I keep trying not to go on about the Hugos, but saying The Snow Queen was 'the best of a thin harvest' or words to that effect seems a bit off-beam, unless you're only talking about the scrofulous Final Hugo Ballot. Not featured thereon, after all, were Timescape (which won all the other major awards – Nebula, Ditmar, BSFA, Campbell Memorial, etc), The Shadow of the Torturer (second place in all other awards' voting, leading to a guilt vote for the slightly inferior The Claw of the Conciliator in the next year's Nebula voting), and oddments like Sladek's Roderick (effectively disqualified from the Hugo, like most British books, through lack of a US edition in the relevant period).

Dave Locke – only now do I notice the pathetic plea for a photo of me (well, of everyone really). Too late, dammit.... There'sacommentherewhichimpliesItalk-fastandsinceI'venevereverspokenawordtoyouDavenotevenoverthetelephoneI'dliketo-knowhowyoupickedupthisludicrousnotionevenifitisslightlywelltrue.... You mention John Sladek. I like Sladek, enjoy his books, think the new Roderick sequence is fine stuff, and interviewed the man recently for Extro (UK mag – why don't you submit, Steve Leigh, c/o me?) – reprint due in SFR later this year. (Advt.)

Arthur Hlavaty – (((((Fancy (saying))(all those (nasty (things) about ((LISP) and its distinctive ((((flavour)))).))))))) Are you a closet claustrophobe, perhaps? "BASIC is the language for boys; FORTRAN for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must write PASCAL," quoth my tame big-computer expert. "Um," I reply from the depths of my vast experience in kiddies' BASIC and dinosaurs' FORTRAN.... Auden: I rubbed shoulders with the great man himself at Oxford, but only once, in the street, by accident. "Grunt," he said poetically from the Olympian heights. "Sorry," I wittily riposted, and got off his foot.

Marty Helgesen – Although the evidence for black holes to be found in the last decade's sf plots may seem overwhelming, we still can't say "it is true that there are black holes". So far it's all deduction in the interests of mathematical consistency: as with neutrinos (from the mid-30s to 1956), they simply ought to exist (and if so, we hope the Cygnus X-l thingy is indeed one). At least one mathematical physicist still argues that a BH would be unstable and go through the famous Hawking decomposition so swiftly that it wouldn't exist long enough to be observed – which is a handy way of sweeping the complications of BHs under the carpet, don't you think? (Warning: My novel contains a black hole.)

Dave Wixon – Running out of Daves? There used to be a, so to speak, wave of Daves in mid-70s Britfandom, but my system of immortality through internal pickling has enabled me to outlast most of them. In fellow-sot D. Locke, though, I've probably met my match: though there is the possibility that his is but a sodden facade, like that of an eight-foot-tall brute covered in rank hair as formerly presented by J*e N*ch*l*s. Well, hi there anyway, Dave, Dave and David. (I know who I mean each time: surely you can tell from the subtle tones of voice?)

ENDGAME: I ought to make more mailing comments: sorry. // I'm still writing bits of TAFF report covering my almost forgotten 1980 trip: stuff so far printed or scheduled in (1) Twll-Ddu 19 – me – any FLAPpers want one? (2) Boonfark 5 (Dan Steffan); (3) Nabu 11 (Ian Maule); (4) Warhoon 30 (Dick Bergeron); (5) Tappen 2 (Malcolm Edwards); (6) The Zine That Has No Name (Paul Skelton); a volume someday!