Cloud Chamber 163½

What happened here was that I gathered together a few bits and pieces for a new issue intended as #164, got distracted, forgot all about it, and started again from scratch in 2020. I continue to blame the SF Encyclopedia for practically everything.


Why, yes, since you mention it so pointedly, it has been a long time since Cloud Chamber appeared at all, and the December 2011 issue wasn't exactly crammed with substantive content; the last "proper" issue appeared in December 2010. Naturally I continue to blame the SF Encyclopedia, for which – besides the eternal round of copyediting and uploading entries and corrections – I've been persuaded to spend a lot of time devising extra features like the Picture Gallery and the script that presents John Clute's sometimes horrendously complicated bibliographical checklists in straight alphabetical or chronological order (more about this here).

The Thog Files. Another reason for a Thog submission failing to appear in Ansible may be that the quotation, rather than provoking an immediate smile, needs a little thought to work out just what's wrong. Nonie Rider understands this: "Too many words not fit in Thog's head, but here's a 'Lenape shell tools were better than we thought!' special for your own amusement: 'New York is a city of forgotten secrets. / Perhaps it began ten thousand years ago, when a glacier buried an entire forest alive beneath what is now the Upper West Side. Ten centuries later, workmen digging a new subway tunnel came across all those lost trees deep underground, frozen in time. They had to cut through them with chain saws just to keep digging.' (Scott Mebus, The Gods of Manhattan, 2008)."

As Others Saw Us. The Ansible "As Others See Us" department should, I feel, stick to contemporary coverage. So when Martin Morse Wooster sends nine-year-old snippets, I keep them for CC: "Hooray! St Hilda's College, Oxford, will once again echo to the patter of hairy feet, with the Tolkien Society's 2004 'Oxonmoot.' This is the year's main social event for tragic hobbit obsessives – sorry, that's a low blow, and quite undeserved." (The Spectator, 7 August 2004) Perhaps nowadays the Speccie has adopted the happy net convention of following cheap insults with a little smiley face which is somehow supposed to make it all right but, exactly as above, doesn't.

The Letter Column

An Anonymous Correspondent communicates a passage from "Kate Orman's Night of the Living Dad, which is now extremely out of print ... describing how some time travellers got stranded on Earth:

"We appeared halfway between Earth and Mars, and limped as close to Earth as we dared." He was tapping keys, bringing up the inventory program. "Then we sent the ship on a course for the sun and crammed ourselves into an escape pod."

"Where did you land?"

"In the Welsh countryside. We were lucky to come down over land. Hogan got married nine years ago. He's living in Upper Norwood. Beilby died of the common cold. And no one knows what happened to Langford."

Ralph Houston on last issue's Language Lesson:

I liked the item about barley sugar doing the full circle. It reminded me of something similar. The Dutch word for rampart or indeed bulwark is bolwerk. The French took it to mean the road on top and it became boulevard. The Dutch in turn liked this word and re-imported it, so now you can have a boulevard running along the top of a bolwerk.

Yvonne Rousseau passed on a fragment of Thoggish pedantry from an Australian paper:

I did not know testicles could write. In his review of Ian Morris's Why the West Rules – For Now ("Backwardness has its advantages", February 19-20), Cameron Woodhead reveals that at least one pair could do so: "While writing his magnum opus, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon's testicles swelled to grotesque size." If they were writing now, would they use a ballpoint pen instead of a quill?

(Tony English, Glenalta, South Australia, letter in Weekend Australian, 5-6 March 2011)

Martin Morse Wooster unearthed a passage of British political doomsaying:

This is from a section in the May 20, 1981 Hansard  called "Control of Space Invaders and Other Electronic Games" in which George Foulkes, Labour member for South Ayrshire, proposed national regulations on video games.  The House of Commons decided not to consider Foulkes's bill by a 114-94 margin.  "Space Invaders" is not capitalized in Hansard.

"This is what is happening to our young people.  They play truant, miss meals, and give up other normal activity to play 'space invaders.'  They become crazed, with eyes glazed, oblivious to everything around them, as they play the machines.  It is difficult to appreciate unless one has seen it for oneself.  I suggest that right hon. and hon. members who have not seen it should go incognito to an arcade or café in their own areas and see the effect that it is having on young people. The machines that have a target of the highest previous score obtained particularly attract a youngster to play them again and again in an effort to beat the previous record.  There is little hope of the craze fading, because the current machines have an interest span of about two years, compared with seven months for most amusement machines.   There are second and further generations of more advanced machines to hook the kids if the attraction of the previous machines should fade, including one with a three-dimensional effect."

So nothing was done to nip this evil in the bud, with the horrid effects that we see around us today.

? 2015