Cloud Chamber 20
April 1983

CLOUD CHAMBER TWENTY, or, Does A Slow Djinn Fizz? – being another FLAPzine of the thin kind from Dave Langford, 94 London Road, READING, Berkshire, RG1 5AU, England. Target: FLAP 22. Start countdown ...

I was talking to Joseph Nicholas the other day. It was after a party vaguely in honour of fabulous TAFFperson Avedon Carol, and various British fans were lying round demonstrating the British hangover, only Avedon didn't seem to have the knack for it. (Beats me. That much Coke ought to give you a hangover, or something.) The subject of APAs came up. The subject of FLAP came up. Joseph was moved to speak:

"Bloody hell, Dave, you're not still in that thing? Oh God, I remember it, all these cosy cosy chums sitting round telling each other how wonderful they were, it was awful – diabetic. When I was in there I decided to stir things up, and I came out with all this fear and loathing and rhetoric, really got things going for a bit; I think I must have resigned just before they threw me out ..."

"Gosh, Joseph," I said, "you've mellowed a lot recently."

He looked at me very suspiciously. But before he could launch into another long diatribe I made an excuse and left, having some FLAP mailing comments to type.

Bruce: For at least two reasons I was rather taken with your notion of secret apazines, hidden messages sent to all but only deciphered by the elect few. However, when I tried it nobody noticed: many issues of Cloud Chamber ago I tortured the prose of a whole paragraph so that the initial letters of the words spelt out a dubious message. The time I wasted looking for replies in kind! None, ever.

Arthur: When I got to your Colin Wilson quote I rocked in my chair, not believing that even Colin would be so loony. Whoopee! Another specimen for the next book of batty quotes I get involved in. CW is a strange person all round: we visited him a couple of times around 1977, and it seemed that there was nothing he was prepared to be sceptical about. "The trouble with an open mind is that people come along and put things in it." Stopped visiting partly because the book we were both involved with got finished, partly because of a disconcerting Wilson habit of flinging himself upon Hazel with vast friendly hugs and kisses whenever we arrived, departed, stood up, sat down, breathed, etc. She wasn't too keen on this....

Judy/Jutz: Since I just found some piles of index cards covering the Forbidden Book Collection (still 7000 in cardboard boxes on the third floor...) I might as well supplement your list of Eric Frank Russell as prepared for the mighty Locke. NOVELS: Sinister Barrier, Wasp, Next of Kin, Dreadful Sanctuary, With a Strange Device, Sentinels from Space, Three to Conquer. (The order, by the way, is that in which I acquired and filed them!) COLLECTIONS: Men, Martians & Machines (includes 'Symbiotica'), Somewhere a Voice, Far Stars, The Great Explosion (linked stories culminating with 'And Then There Were None'), Dark Tides, Deep Space, Like Nothing On Earth. Also: Great World Mysteries (nonfic) and The Space Willies/Six Worlds Yonder (Ace Double combining alternate title of Next of Kin with six shorts). As far as I know these are all the full-length Russell books and collections. (NB: With A Strange Device also once appeared as The Mindwarpers.) I like Russell.

Mike: You mention that 'Thou shalt not kill' should according to some scholars read 'Thou shalt not murder'. As it happens, the current Times Literary Supplement reviews a marvellously bizarre-sounding book, Hebrew is Greek by J. Yahuda, which sets out to prove that Hebrew, as in the Bible, and Greek, as in Homer, are literally exactly the same language. "The first thing to strike the reader ... is that most of the Greek words cited have not the slightest resemblance to the Hebrew words with which they are supposed to be homologous. Hebrew ya'as 'counsel' is said to be homologous with Greek medomai 'intend, plan' ... Yahuda deals with this by means of the 'interchanges' which may, he thinks, take place between the Greek form and the Hebrew form of the same word ... Following Yahuda's principles: the word lo', usually understood as Hebrew and as meaning 'not', must certainly homologize with the Homeric ra 'indeed, verily', by familiar, easy and obvious interchanges of the letters ..." Yes, folks. 'Thou shalt verily ...'

Dave W: What for the cake be laid by Snorkum?

Joni: 'For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen / Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.' (GKC) Hope this solves the geographical question posed in your comment to David H? No, no, don't mention it: glad to help.

Pauline: That book The Vanishing Hitchhiker just came out over here, with the first word dropped (presumably in hope of boosting sales) from the subtitle American Urban Legends and their meaning. It's rather more exhaustive and analytic than The Tumour in the Whale, which merely strives to cram in as many funny or gory stories as possible, without delving into the psychology of it all.

Lon: A pal here in Reading keeps telling me Dumb Stories about computers, mostly concerned with service people from his company who drive hundreds of miles and find their task is to plug the machine in, or to remove either a 10p piece or somebody's head from the line printer. He also unfortunately tells computer jokes, as when Long John Silver is baffled by the cry "Pieces of seven! Pieces of seven!" (A parity error.)

Dean: Are old-fashioned non-Yale house keys obsolete? Good grief. Apart from a Yale on the front door, everywhere I've ever lived had old-style locks throughout – this house still has the original locks from when it was built in 1878. And I'm still only 30, even though I can remember when Bat Dursten was spelt Bat Durston....

Jackie: Have pubbed my ish just this month (April) and arranged for copies of Twll-Ddu 20 to meander deviously FLAPwards. Sorry about (as well as everything else) their being stapled: the collation crew just went crazy before I could stop 'em. As for these sinister SFWA members, I have to confess that I too am ... tainted.

Dave Lo: Oh bloody hell. I'm so embarrassed. After hearing Joe Nicholas bitch about the awfulness of The Space Eater so very, very often, I'm just not tooled up to handle praise. Lots of thanks, and I take back all the obscure jokes about you last issue.... Two more novels under way, but both are going slowly as yet.

Bernadette: Everybody looks at me strangely when I casually remark that Tristram Shandy was the first New Wave sf novel. Once I even met somebody who didn't like it. Incredible. // When the Wind Blows is due out in Penguin paperback over here. It had a similar effect on my dreams. I wonder if it was the same page that hit?

Marty: Nice people burned books over here in the winter of 1981-2. Richard Booth, whose Hay-on-Wye bookshop claimed to be the biggest second-hand one in the world (it was converted from an old cinema), cleared a lot of totally unsaleable stock – mostly unreadable and disintegrating Victorian novels, memoirs and sermons – by inviting old people to collect whole carloads as free winter fuel. Naturally there was a blaze of publicity thanks to those who considered this inherently Evil, which was doubtless the idea. Less of a blaze on the old folks' hearths, I should imagine – ever tried to burn a book or even a stack of newspaper? Heavy going.

Joyce: Did I tell you – no, not here with everyone else eavesdropping. Just wait till you get over here in August, and (heh, heh, heh) ... So J. Kaufman won DUFF, eh?

David H: Vaguely apropos of your comments on language: "A robot that can match man mentally and not be capable of lying or cheating is a fantasy." (Stanisław Lem) Somewhere I also have an enchanting little description of a spoof language whose pronunciation is designed to invoke certain groups of facial muscles depending on the nature of the statement being made. Thus it becomes impossible to speak illogically without being forced into broad grins and repeated winks. Nice.

Bill, Becky, Mike H, Suzi, Roy: I read your addresses with enormous interest and enjoyment. The pellucid clarity and synoptic, pithy brilliance of the writing impressed the hell out of me. Unfortunately I don't actually have any comments....

Notes fur the Curious: Yes, these were comments on FLAP 21. Yes, the Mike who suffers my front-page tedium about Hebrew and Greek is Mike S. Yes, I tried to think of some clever response to Eric's fascinatingly brief comments on computers, but some curious quirk or personality deficiency got in the way; perhaps it could be an allergy to Eric's paper or typeface; perhaps I should ask my doctor whether I should be worried by such symptoms as snoring, and eyelid droop, and slumping inertly in my chair, at only the 94th or 137th mention of apparently innocuous words like 'computer' or 'disk'. (Or, for that matter, Arthur, 'WordStar'.) Oops.