Cloud Chamber 22
October 1983


"Yeah, well," I imagine FRANK saying suspiciously and giving me one of his Looks, "what's all this arsing around with two Cloud Chambers when one will do, why can't you dream up a new title anyway, like everybody else?" The horrid truth is that I'm still entangled in one of those American apas, which will eventually be getting issues 21 and 23, probably as my last contribution since I'm finding it a bit boring – I mean, you wouldn't believe the doctrinaire Catholic who keeps encouraging a modicum of religious chitchat and then invariably comes on heavy with "Of course the Church cannot be wrong since it is inspired by God." ("But suppose there's an error of interpretation?" "Oh, God wouldn't permit that." "Er, what about free will then?" "Oh, God's ever so devious and if free will looked like making the vote go wrong in Vatican II he'd have smitten somebody with holiday tummy or whatever was needed to adjust the voting balance." "But –" Well, you get the idea, every discussion grinding to a halt amid Unquestionable Axioms.)

So there are two CCs here because one gets circulated elsewhere (afterwards, FRANK, not before, not even simultaneously, but afterwards) and I'm using the same old apazine title I came up with for OMPA in 1976 because, er, well, soddit, I'm not very good at inventing titles. As the existence of Twll-Ddu tends to show.

Onward. Blue Suede News is good rousing stuff, and its confessions of flagrant apathy on the part of G. Pickersgill are just about enough to soothe my natural arrogant rage at never being told what was going on despite dutifully signing the Declaration of Intent at Silicon. All my fault for adding Keith Walker's name, I suppose. (Having kept a low profile as co-perpetrator of FEAPA, I suppose I can hardly complain that FRANK's grudging and belated merit points are handed out to Chris Priest alone.) Anyway, these rules. On the one hand I'm lazy and all for the easy, slothful, six-weekly life – attacks of deadline fever recently meant a gap of three months between issues of Ansible, which is quite important to me really. On the other hand I'm all for rigour in one thing, English, and fresh from appalling experiences in the USA I urge FRANK to incorporate rules forbidding the totally opaque apa-abbreviations so popular over there. The Right of Public Criticism so vigorously asserted in this first issue should be exercised if any Yank-influenced sloppiness creeps in, stuff like having acronyms for mailing comments such as "Read And Enjoyed But No Comment" or "'In My Humble Opinion" or – worst of all and prevalent in recursive mailing comments on mailing comments which vanish into the mists of the past – "Re Your Comment To –". Onward again. The best thing about FLAP, that US apa referred to above, is that the whole lot is on standard paper and stapled up into a hefty volume which looks worth keeping if not always worth reading. (FAPA, on the other hand, arrives as a jiffybagful of waste paper which needs to be kept securely closed in case it seethes over all your floor in a frothing mass of kipple. I left FAPA a while ago.) Vive le, or possibly la, slipbinder. Shall have to be briefer about the rest of this, I can see.

Hello Frank (Frost): Flipping through in a blaze of self-interest ... I was interested in that point about Ansible (among other fanzines) being a trifle neglected. With the subscription list getting on for 400 I should be able to scoff, but it's true, you know. Part of the furniture ... don't need to write letters because you subscribe ... miss this issue, so what, be another along in a month or two.... Biggest response I've ever had was in the aforementioned 3-month gap, when the sudden absence of Old Faithful registered and millions of people wrote in saying "Langford you bastard, I've got three more issues to go," or similar. Four years and a few odd months I've been going now: one day, without prior warning, I shall get bored with newsgathering and STOP, har har. It's either that or go all Locuslike, paid ads, glossy paper, huge prices... urgh.

Alun Harries (Harries): From the curiously formal writing here I get the vague impression of A. Harries sitting at the keyboard rigid with terror while some terrible malign presence, possibly Greg, lashes him on with a bullwhip. Not pretentious (as per expressed fear) but a bit formal. Maybe you should try to write the way you talk (omitting of course the vacant silences and pauses to vomit which beset us all). On the other hand, complaints have been made about me on the ground that I talk the way I write. This tends to worry me..,

Armadillos (Bell): Until just now I'd forgotten the incredibly boring tradition of Introducing Oneself. (There is a far more boring tradition some fans indulge in, called Explaining The Dates And Publication Details And Titles And Pagecounts Of My Previous 108 Fanzines. Oh God.) Anyway, if anyone has the slightest curiosity: born '53, found fandom at some nebulous instant between arriving at Oxford ('71) and Novacon 3 (between which times fannish tendrils penetrated the Oxford U SF Group and infected me with the terrible need to go to cons), produced the first issues of Twll-Ddu, Drilkjis (with that Kev Smith fellow) and CC all in '76, pausing at some stage to marry Hazel. Chased neutrons at AWRE from '75 to '80 and took up starvation immediately after. Got drunk at all Eastercons since Tynecon, all Novacons since no.3, all Silicons ditto, '79 and '80 worldcons, the first two Cymrucons, Faancons 3-7, all Milford conferences '77-'82, and numerous oddments like my one afternoon at Beccon. Fanzines ... no, no, enough, too much, let's just say this is the 109th and that these days I spend too much time on Ansible, issue 1 at Seacon '79 and issue 35 earlier this month. Recipes: yes, yes, why not? Peter Wareham sol icited one from me for some US con he was going to, but nobody else responded and the putative publishers couldn't face the thought of a recipe book comprising no more than the forbidden formula for Sinister Langford Apple Chutney.

Invisible Fun (Jackson): Somebody, somewhere, I name no names, has put in a hell of a lot of research developing a paragraphing style (if that's what it is) even more irritating than that US abortion called slip-paragraphing or – if I remember right – nonstoparagraphing. For God's sake don't let Ackerman see it or he'll have all those Ackerman-is-God nerds doing it too. Anything is possible to a man who not only invented the term sci-fi but is still proud of it... Liked the psychological bits here. Can these mean that we're all going to Let It Hang Out and slide inexorably into what Joseph sneeringly calls California Crap? H'm.

Fish Helmet (Hansen): Reminds me of vague intentions, all gone the usual way of vague intentions, to dash off a searing write-up of the Peter Nicholls/Clare Coney wedding (at which John Sladek, moving like chubby greased lightning, got to the booze before me every time I so much as drifted in that direction, like about every five minutes. Subsequently he shimmered off in a cloud of far more champagne than anyone had expected mean old Peter to provide, awakening next morning in sudden stark sobriety to realize he'd left his coat behind. It was an expensive coat; the happy couple were honeymooning almost instantly; by the time they returned J. Sladek would be making a threesome of the Disch/Naylor menage in New York. Thus it was that a somewhat hungover Sladek roused Peter'n'Clare from their connubial bed at an ungodly hour that morning, repossessed the coat and contritely tidied up the house he'd disarrayed so blithely on the night before), or the Book Marketing Council's launch of their fatuous SF promotion (where I studied the enigmatic Gene Wolfe, unable to fathom the inward insecurity which makes him fasten his glasses across the back of his head with this extraordinary bit of black elastic. Also Jim Burns indiscreetly recited to me the true and terrible story of his and Harry Harrison's Planet Story, the trouble about which was that HH apparently got the impression that what was wanted was – rather than something a la Deathworld or The Stainless Steel Rat – a thoroughly lowbrow, shoddy, slapstick, comic-book story. By the time he'd delivered same it was a bit late to disabuse him ...).

Dregs: Well, there is this tendency for sensitive souls, Greg Pickersgill maybe, to assume that failure to comment on their offering is tantamount to dismissing it as mere slimy sediment in the heady wine of the apa mailing. Not so: to try and comment on everything is deadly, this way tedium lies. Rather let us flit whimsically hither and thither, commenting as the mood takes us and having FUN FUN FUN.