Cloud Chamber 155
December 2005

There hasn't been much Cloud Chamber activity of late: the July mailing of Acnestis has yet to appear, and so work on this CC has been largely confined to the complex editorial effort of changing the date at regular intervals: from August to September to October to November to December.... It's been a weird year, with a book out (The SEX Column), two Hugos, two hefty new projects (one being the third Encyclopedia of SF), some tiresome minor surgery for a horrid cyst on the side of my head, and the strange joy of being the theme of a prize crossword in Matrix 176 (Nov/Dec 2005). Christmas is imminent and I'm exhausted. Take it away, letter-writers:

Karen E. Babich has been proofing Rangle Cotgraves' A Dictionaire of the French and English Tongves (1611) for Distributed Proofreaders/Project Gutenberg, and sends these samples:

Janice Gelb couldn't resist: 'No source so no hope for Thog's but someone just posted this to one of my editing lists and I thought you might like to see it: The aged pines and natural coppice gently embraced the aged church as if it was in the bosom of a colossal giant sporting a fur tree beard.'

Margaret Hoyt knows how to have fun: 'I'm off to Oaxaca in Mexico, to enjoy an annual festival, the Night of the Radishes, which if it turned up in a science fiction work, would be condemned as toooo bizarre: people grow specially large, inedible radishes, which they carve and shape into elaborate displays, set up around the city's main square on December 23. My latest scheme for avoiding the trials of Xmas.' I'm sure Night of the Radishes must be a Roger Corman film.

Chris Lawson was inspired by the pseudo-legal threat in Ansible 219: 'We hereby issue notice that Dave Langford has caused economic harm and emotional distress to Chris Lawson by the repeated refusal to mention his work in each and every issue of Ansible. We hereby demand that all future issues of Ansible contain recommendations for Lawson's work, and all back issues be retrospectively edited to include such recommendations. We extend this notice to include all people and institutions who have contributed to this gross and flagrant suppression, to wit: Mr David Langford, Ansible (whatever the heck an ansible is), the University of Glasgow, not to mention the Internet as a whole. All access to Ansible, and indeed all internet traffic, is to cease immediately until the Ansible edits have been attended to, and a sufficiently grovelling apology is received. All correspondence should be addressed to Mr Chris Lawson's attorney, Mr Chris Lawson (no relation).'

Jonathan Palfrey shares what may well be a Zen koan. 'Warning notice found in a printer manual of Japanese origin: Use the power supply voltage specified on the nameplate. Doing so may cause fire or electric shock.'

Lawrence Person bragged about his 'receipt of a coveted Dishonorable Mention in the prestigious Bulwer-Lytton Contest for the third year in a row ...' Though the competition's deliberate Thoggeries usually seem laboured and unfunny, this struck a certain chord: 'Inside his cardboard box, Greg heated a dented can of Spaghetti-O's over a small fire made from discarded newspapers, then cracked open his last can of shoplifted generic beer to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his embarkation on a career as a freelance writer.'

Rog Peyton wishes to place a small ad: 'Unfortunately The SEX Column didn't sell as well as I'd hoped [at Worldcon] – I sold just under 50% of my stock – I had 100 and really thought I'd sell at least 90% of them. I really need to shift more copies URGENTLY and would be grateful if you could guide anyone asking about this book, towards Replay Books on ebay if paying by PayPal – I now have an eBay shop. Or if paying by cheque, to Replay Books, 19 Eves Croft, Bartley Green, Birmingham, B32 3QL. Price for the hardcover is £17.99 plus £3.00 first class postage in the UK; pbk is £9.99 plus £2.40 first class postage.'

Nonie Rider scours the cosmos: 'Okay, not really a Thog ... but an interesting garble of imagery. From Sideshow Toys' description of Anakin Skywalker: And ever in his ear, the softly spoken praise of the Supreme Chancellor stokes the fires of a young man's vanity, insidiously wilting his Jedi humility, burning a wedge between him and his dearest friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sounds like a tasty barbeque: grilled wedge with wilted-humility salad.'

Adam Roberts offers yet another Thoggish, or perhaps sub-Thog, moment: '[This is after World War V:] "A superior though benign race of aliens took Earth's hand, pulling it out of the rubble, thanks to computerized neural implants in their larger brains. These beings had triple-pointed ears that looked as if some animal had chewed on them." (Dan Bivens and Gerald James Seward, Advent of the Corps: A New Beginning, 2003) ...

Superior Alien 1: Shall we pull all of humanity out of the rubble, then?
Superior Alien 2: Nah, just their hands.
Superior Alien 1: What, you mean their actual hands?
Superior Alien 2: Maybe. Or maybe we're supposed to pull, like, their metaphorical collective hand out.
Superior Alien 1: Uh-huh, uh-huh, and leave the rest of their metaphorical collective body still buried?
Superior Alien 2: Um, I guess. The orders aren't terribly clear.

'I certainly didn't buy the book, I'm glad to say, nor do I plan to. I'd rather have some animal chew on my triple-pointed ears.'

Yvonne Rousseau's literary research discloses 'a curious first encounter between Noel Coward and Marie Stopes in late 1921. This is recorded in Ruth Hall, Marie Stopes: A biography (Andre Deutsch, 1977). Coward and Stopes had both been visiting America, and were returning to England aboard the S.S Cedric. Stopes reported to her husband: "I have read two of the plays of this interesting young author-actor – one very good and one very bad – I told him it was 'putrid' and he took it ever so nicely ..." Coward, though he later refused her offer to rewrite The Vortex on birth control lines, was sufficiently intrigued to send her a poem:

"If through a mist of awful fears
Your mind in anguish gropes
Dry up your panic-stricken tears
And fly to Marie Stopes.

"If you have missed life's shining goal
And mixed with sex perverts and Dopes
For normal soap to cleanse your soul
Apply to Marie Stopes.

"And if perhaps you fail all round
And lie among your shattered hopes
Just raise your body from the ground
crawl to Marie Stopes."'

Cloud Chamber, the fanzine of esoteric culture. Finished in desperate haste, 23/12/2005.