CLOUD CHAMBER SEVENTEEN – postscript to CC13 from Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berks, RG1 5AU, UK. CC13 was kept by the PO from its intended FAPA mailing, while APASF&F died: since then Things Have Changed....
Suddenly it's no longer July but October. The new-house hysteria reported in CC13 has died away somewhat, fading as disco music seems to fade when at last your eardrums rupture, and we're lying round here with a peaceful post-Armageddon feeling. The builders have ripped out and replaced – in fetchingly different colours – the several squashy patches of downstairs flooring which turned out to be supported by mighty oaken joists whose texture now resembled that of a loofah. A pervading pong of something which might be paraffin still remains to indicate the chemical damp-proofing injected into all downstairs walls (we haven't fully recovered from the horror of seeing woodlice erupt from the cracks, biting their own tails in death spasms as the fatal fluid converted the brickwork to an insect Auschwitz); a further pervading pong of vermicide has much to do with the further hideous deaths of innumerable woodworm and weevils, at a price hinting that they must have been individually tracked down by private detective agencies and bopped with small gold hammers. The formerly musty and disgusting cellar now boasts a smart new ceiling, a series of air-vents (ingenious builders' parlance cloaking the plain fact that one is paying for the installation of a draught) and a striplight, making it quite inappropriate to instal the planned cask of Amontillado for our next fannish party. The Great Slug which once ravaged at will over the breakfast-room carpet and any shirts i left there has either gone the way of our other infestations or perfected some new and unlikely hiding-place ("Wait till he puts on his stereo headphones..."). The new buyer from Cambridge ('sucker' is, I understand, the technical term) has not only handed over huge sums of money for 22 Northumberland Avenue but patiently delivered or re-addressed upwards of 80 assorted letters and fanzines delivered there by the GPO in merry disregard of the huge sums I've paid them for redirection. in short, God would be in his heaven and all right with the world were it not for the still pressing need to get our chimneys swept, repaint window frames, instal gas fires, erect shelving for the 7000 books still not unpacked (it looks as though I've unpacked hundreds, but closer inspection reveals that I've merely, er, acquired hundreds since moving in ...), write two novels and countless short pieces and millions of reviews and things and what am I doing here anyway typing stencils when I should be doing almost anything else?
It is a proud and lonely thing to be a fan. But to be the new owner of an old house is not lonely at all, for never will you lack the jolly companionship of gasmen, builders, painters, roof-patchers, coalmen, Southern Electricity inspectors, and a hundred other strange forms of life. Most motley of all are the direction-askers; it's difficult to get out of the gate without a screech of brakes and an anxious request from another driver who's met Existential Doubt at the psychological instant a few seconds after entering London Road from the major junction close by, and now wishes to be set on the One True Path to Perfect Wisdom. "Am I on the right road for London/Gatwick Airport/Camberley/East Putney/Maiden-head ...?" Answer in most cases: "No." One singularly pathetic fellow kept waving a cheque which apparently he'd been waving all the way from Dover: he wanted to get to a particular bank, whose address was on the cheque, and had been saying "Rending? Reading?" to people who like him didn't know that what he wanted was Reading Road in far-off Camberley. Anguished cries as I broke this to him...
Another innocuous-looking van driver looked bewildered enough to have just realized that really he should be in Minneapolis, Johannesburg or Yakutsk ratherthan plebeian Reading. Poising myself to direct him to any of the formerly mentioned places, I boggled slightly when instead he asked (a) if I was me, and (b) whether I happened to have a fork-lift truck. After stern questioning I found that my former publishers, David & Charles, not content with trying to sell me remaindered copies of my War in 2080: The Future of Military Technology at a price vastly above that quoted to remainder dealers (I'd shouted at them and demanded my right to bag the lot for a moderately substantial song), had wreaked their final revenge by sending the whole lot in one parcel only slightly smaller than the National Carriers van it came in. I draw a veil over the NCL man's comments on learning that, aided only by me, he was about to hump 1,382 copies of my deathless masterwork into the house ... a few at a time.
Well, I'm sure they make jolly good insulation up there in the top room. Any fan wishing a copy of this truly triffic hardback masterpiece, previously selling at £6.50 until undercut by the Sphere paperback, need only send £3 or $6 (dollar bills are fine, cheques less so) to cover the book, postage, signature of D. Langford (optional) and update sheet correcting misprints etc in original edition.
It is a proud and lonely thing to have cornered the market in one's own book.
You would love me to quote from R.L. Fanthorpe's deathless March of the Robots:
"Once it had landed the silence was gone – like an illusion that is destroyed when the curtains of a stage are pulled aside. The silence was broken by metallic noises. Harsh clanking, jarring metallic noises. Things were stirring within the disc ship. Strange metallic things; things that were alien to the soft green grass of earth.
Terrifying things, steel things; metal things; things with cylindrical bodies and multitudinous jointed limbs. Things without flesh and blood. Things that were made of metal and plastic and transistors and valves and relays, and wires. Metal things. Metal things that could think. Thinking metal things. Terrifying in their strangeness, in their peculiar metal efficiency. Things the like of which had never been seen on the earth before. Things that were sliding back panels... Robots! Robots were marching... Robots were marching, and were about to spread havoc and destruction across the earth, and as yet the sleeping earth knew nothing of their coming. As mysterious as anything in the great mysterious universe.
The robots in their disc ship had arrived...
There were strange flickering lights ail around the ship. Terrifying lights, weird lights, uncanny lights, awful lights, inhuman lights, alien lights, robot lights; and all around a great hemispherical glowing shield sprang up, A thing with a pale greeny blue luminescence. An electronic thing, a mechanical thing. A thing that was part of the robot genius. A thing that was as strange as the ship and its occupants. A force field, a glowing greenish blue force field ..." (Badger Books, 1961)
By George, they don't write skiffy like that any more. Well, not often.
CLOUD CHAMBER 17, for FAPA and a Select Few Fans, is dated 27 October 1982.
'This was the Stygian darkness of which poets wrote. This was the pit of Acheron of which the creators of classic prose made mention. This was the kind of darkness which made thick, black velvet seem like chiffon by contrast. This was the kind of darkness that turned pitch into translucent polythene, when the two were placed side by side ...' (NEURON WORLD, R.L. Fanthorpe)
This was ... Dave Langford, 94 London Rd, Reading, Berks!