CLOUD CHAMBER EIGHTEEN a little something for EURAPA from Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berks, RG1 5AU, England. Dated 16 December 1982.
Er, hello, everyone. I suppose I should start by introducing myself. My birth was the most colossally important event in world fandom since the publication of Jehovah's noted fanzine The Bible; in the early years of my life I won all the major SF and fannish awards presented within the orbit of Jupiter; subsequently I learned to read and write, since when I have become more famous still. At present I am reliably informed that only one deaf-and-dumb fan in the wastes of Outer Mongolia remains unaware of my utter supremacy, and the death squads will be dealing with him shortly. Right now I'm thinking of leaving the Solar System altogether and creating a new fanriish fandom out of the Void. I reckon it shouldn't take me more than about six days.
Wait a minute. There has been an error, a leakage of information. That first paragraph is not one of mine, it has escaped from the fanzine of Ahrvid Engholm (the fan whose modesty rivals Isaac Asimov's). Please cut it out and paste it back into hIs fanzine in this mailing. Thank you.
Onward. Why, you ask, is this Cloud Chamber numbered 18? For some reason, such as a great poverty of imagination, I seem to call all my apazines Cloud Chamber no matter where they appear: the first two were in OMPA (deceased UK apa), the third in the Worldcon apa WOOF, the fourth and fifth in my and Chris Priest's dynamic new IJK apa FEAPA (also deceased, dammit), numbers 6, 7 and 10 for FAPA (not deceased but sometimes looks that way), 9 and l4 for APASF&F (another dead UK apa – I wonder if they're allergic to me?), numbers 8 (got out of order there), 11, 12, l5, 16 for FLAP (very obscure tiny US apa), which leaves 13 and 17 unaccounted for. I intended them for circulation in all sorts of places, and all of a sudden EURAPA has become one of those places. Too late to escape now! Just turn the page, and suffer....
I couldn't resist joining EURAPA. The presence of famous Bob Shaw intrigued me; famous Roelof Goudriaan persuaded me ("Langford, I kill you deadly unless ...") because he wanted more Cloud Chambers for his crudsheet collection; and I was interested in the bit by famous Pascal Thomas in the sample first mailing sent me by really staggeringly mindbogglingly famous Ahrvid. As one of those vile English speakers whose "arrogance is understandable" I have to hang my head in shame – what unfair good luck that I should just happen to have been brought up talking what seems to have become Europe's international language (according to Pascal). I am, incidentally, not English – cast out the disgusting imperialists of England! I'd go and lead an ideologically sound life at my birthplace in South Wales (not to be confused, as the US post office has done, with New South Wales), only South Wales is just too far from the centres of British fandom and publishing.
Had I been born twenty years sooner or later I might be in the peculiarly tiny minority of those whose first language is Welsh: not too long before I was born there were plenty of villages where most of the inhabitants refused to speak English, while just recently a cousin of mine aged four has been dumped in a Welsh-language school (a result of the Welsh revival engineered by folk almost as shrill as the Québecois – the cause may or may not be a doomed one). In this school all tuition is in Welsh and no word of English may be spoken until it's studied as a foreign language after another 3 or 4 years. Having myself suffered the educational system in South Wales, I hope this doesn't leave the poor kid as inept at English as I ended up at French.
However, the main thing I wanted to say in reply to Pascal is in fact that most British fans have that special ineptitude in English which Pascal fears is the special stigma of the foreigner. Really. The people who can do all the good stuff ("stylistic finesse, overtones, rhythms in the prose") may not be as rare as Conrads or Nabokovs, but the vast majority merely bash out Basic Communication with no frills. Of the EURAPAns I already know, could I really tell sight unseen that their prose wasn't by a native Brit? Don't think so: Pascal and Roelof write better English than all too many UK fans (though from long experience I'd probably spot Pascal's habit of putting a space on either side of semicolons and colons – most unBritish – and Roelof's occasional use of English words I don't/didn't know. Well, for some reason the word "polder" doesn't crop up quite so often over here ...). As for Ahrvid, ho ho, there was one persistent little EnglIsh slip he used to make which enabled me instantly to deduce that Punsible (his parody of my Ansible) was his.
Meanwhile, for the improvement of my soul, Pascal keeps sending me his French-language fanzine, which I painfully try to translate word by word with frequent recourse to the dictionary; Waldemar Kumming boggles me with his enormous thick German volumes whereIn the pain of the language is Increased by the agony of the puns; and even Ahrvid likes to leave me baffled by posting along occasional crudsheets in Swedish (oh, they aren't crudsheets? Sorry).
Before we get down to the really important fannish stuff about how I moved house, there is just time for certain introductory bits as traditional. Born 1953; usual long criminal history of reading sf etc until I impinged on the Oxford University SF Group in 1971 and in 1974 left Oxford with a few conventions already under my belt, a short SF story sold, and the glorious position of OUSFG Ex-President with which to impress potential employers. From 1975 to mid-1980 I attended ever so many UK conventions, published several dozen fanzines and worked for the evil Ministry of Defence Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (in memory of which I wrote a book on warfare which offended the MoD by being full of jokes). Since then my life has been the poverty-stricken one of a freelance writer, the fanzine publications have reached 100 or so, I've been getting a fanwriter Hugo nomination for some inexplicable reason each year since 1979, and help, here's the bottom of the page –