Cloud Chamber 23
October 1983

CLOUD CHAMBER 23 • a further something for FLAP from Dave Langford, 94 London Rd, Reading, Berks, RGI 5AU, UK, phone (0734) 665804. Astonishing Possible Farewell Issue, or not.

For reasons hinted at in CC21 I've been more or less out of circulation for much of 1983, finishing this blasted novel. I did parcel up some copies of the current Ansible for FLAP 23, but naturally the whim of the post office chose to present it as a mass of slightly musty news for FLAP 24, and I'm sure you were all thrilled to scan those headlines saying things like MAFEKING RELIEVED! PEARL HARBOUR ATTACKED! CRICK & WATSON DECIPHER JOSEPH NICHOLAS SENTENCE! etc. Sorry about that and about my failure to roundly abuse you all for saying those horrible snide things about me in FLAP 22 – all of which was most welcome, only my deadline worries led me to omit the planned replyzine. Onward ... CC21 was started for therapeutic purposes to try and de-depress me, in which it appears to have more or less succeeded, but looking back on it the content seems a bit (gasp) British, and I don't know how many of you are aware that Intellectual Britfan Dave Bridges is a bus driver, that running jokes about Rob Holdstock's penchant for priapism and faux-pas are deeply embedded in British fanwriting, that Hilary Rubinstein of A.P. Watt Ltd (the world's first literary agency ever) is my agent, and so on. Never trouble, you surely all have cosmic minds.

Now the next stage of my meteoric rise to oblivion consists of another goshwow-sensawunda skiffy novel for Arrow, who this time may be persuaded not to add a cover depicting a garishly spacesuited man clutching a luminescent football seemingly intended to represent the story's Token Black Hole. Exit Langford, pursued by a deadline until sometime next year, and also worrying no end about Second Byte (part of another computer book mostly by Mike Rohan), The Third Millennium (chapters for Brian Stableford's latest futurology book, requested because he can't do the physics), Who's Who in the Universe (immensely silly coffee-table book which I hope will be a barrel of laffs but must write sometime), and the monthly review column for White Dwarf (games mag, pays peanuts but tides me over times when there's no other income at all, such as the last three months or so). I don't know if that lot daunts you but by God it frightens me ... and then there are the nearly 400 subscribers to Ansible, who get ever so rude when as just recently I let three months go by between issues of this dynamic frequent newszine.

(Advt. Seven issues of ANSIBLE can be yours if you merely send $3.50 to Mary & Bill Burns, 23 Kensington Court, Hempstead, NY 11550. Grovel, grovel.)

If you suspect that all the above is leading up to something with the ponderous subtlety of a herd of elephants furtively advancing in rubber-soled sneakers, you are perfectly right. I'm getting thoroughly paranoid about time and money, increasingly irritated by the difficulty of staying in touch with FLAP when the PO is constantly delaying such contributions as I get in, and generally busy to the point where the handsomely stapled FLAP mailing, once read so eagerly, tends to vanish for weeks amid unanswered letters and bills before I get round to it. I think I'd better vanish for a bit until the overloaded brain becomes capable of what the Victorians so delightfully called social intercourse. (Oh dear, I've now written variants of this to cancel two speaking engagements, a con FGoH spot, about five article promises and a bizarre request to write an Adventure game based on Ian Watson's Deathhunter – a computer game, that is. Even I am now bored with my own self-pity.) Since, though, things may loosen up in a few months, and since the glorious 25th mailing would be an inauspicious time to rudely absent oneself from the party, this is merely a Statement of Intent. Assuming I can find enough odd dollar bills to propitiate Dave&Jackie, I'd like to be around for mailing 26, if only for the pleasure of reading my own (figurative) obituaries. Will impoverished and time-starved Langford re-emerge for #27? Who knows? Who cares? For now, in a reluctant but contingent way: goodbye, everyone. It's been fun. Mostly.

Old Subjects: For a while we were chatting about books of 'urban folklore', specifically Rodney Dale's Tumour in the Whale and Jan Brunvand's Vanishing Hitchhiker. On impulse I wrote to Brunvand (it turned out my guess was quite right and he'd had no idea that the British edition of his book had appeared in paperback – publishers!), who says he's finished "a sequel to be titled THE CHOKING DOBERMAN which I hope W. W. Norton will be able to get out by early next year... about a whole 'new' batch of stories, which amaze even me in their variety and weirdness sometimes. I will have some more to say about foreign-food restaurant stories, since I got onto a whole new batch of them also in England last summer. Have you heard about the welder who accidentally fused his contact lenses tight to his corneas so that when he removed the lenses he permanently blinded himself? This has been the subject of recent safety bulletins in US factories, but is entirely untrue, I believe..."

Mailing Comments and Things (FLAP 24, can 't find 23 just now, sorry):

Marty: Without wanting to set off yet another religious argument, I found myself getting irritated once again by your long comment to Judy. It's not so much the subject matter (though I happen to share none of your beliefs) but the really arrogant-sounding tone of voice: never "I believe this is so" or "The teaching of the Church is as follows", but "This is so. This is the TRUTH. Take it or leave it." In my eyes it lacks humility or grace. The human mind is a magnificent speculative engine, whether designed by God or otherwise formed, and is capable of bearing lots of possibilities in mind: maybe things are as you say, maybe I'm the only intelligence there is and FLAP is all illusion, maybe we're simulated intellects in a vast scientifictional computer investigating the weird, forgotten 20th century, maybe life on Earth is an accidental one-off amongst infinite randomness. I rate the probabilities of all but the last rather low, to be sure, but possibilities they remain. None of us in this life can (I suspect) know the truth; even revelation could be false revelation from a source predicted as able to deceive the very elect: while alive we merely have opinions. Faith, if you like. Afterwards, well, I trust you'll toss the odd can of beer from on high to me in the fiery pit.

Becky: Sorry, as over, for not sending in the zine in which, I assure you, I would have burst into tears (breakable saline sachet attached) and pleaded with you all to forgive my wicked comments. Or maybe I'd just have repeated them...

Pauline: Joyce provided me with a lovely clipping which would go down well in a British edition of 'The Lower Case': an ad from a Minneapolis paper, it offered a FREE THATCHERIZER with every purchase of a 1982 Snapper. If I find an ad here for a Reaganizer I'll surely let you know.

Suzi: Reading Space Eater, eh? Tough luck. Here's a quote from my favourite fan letter which may make it unnecessary for you to review the thing: "How can you have produced a book which contains such inhuman, vicious, unpleasant ideas, a book which presents the human race ... as something so unspeakable that I was unable to stomach some of the nastier bits at all, a book which to my mind could not be filmed because it would be totally offensive to anyone with any human sensitivities?" Well, that shows you what kind of sick bastard Locke must be to have liked it, eh? (NB: letter is not from Joseph Nicholas, who merely thought the book boring.)

Jodie: Here at 94 London Rd we were duly terrified by the thought that a few vitamin B pills could start you turning into Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Hazel and I take the things occasionally since they seem to have a good effect on mouth ulcers. Next time I come home feeling numb all over after many pints of good beer I shall be able to say "It wash thoshe B pillsh I hic lasht month..."

Enjoyed the mailing as a whole but haven't any further thrilling comments.

Book Nook: I finally found the second epigraph quotation I wanted for my nuclear farce. (The first was in the Ansible 34 colophon.) Quoth the British Admiralty: "It is necessary for technical reasons that these warheads be stored upside down; that is , with the top at the bottom and the bottom at the top. In order that there may be no doubt as to which is the bottom and which is the top, it will be seen to that the bottom of each warhead immediately be. labelled with the word TOP." I like seeking out silly epigraphs: in Space Eater the fun was to use long portentous quotations from.Sir Thomas Browne and G.K. Chesterton before opening the book proper with a really lowbrow passage of Heinleinesque future warfare...