Cloud Chamber 24
October 1983

:::: Cloud Chamber 24 :::: A Sort of Supplement to CC21 :::: 3 October 1983 ::::

I was hoping to do the deus ex machina scene as a last-minute PS to the tales of poverty and ruin: ha. The really big news is that a cheque arrived this morning to raise young Langfordella from ashes and squalor, permitting attendance at the Novacon Ball! The not so good news is that my feared defection from Novacon was so marginal that the windfall which tipped the balance amounted to £12.... Meanwhile SFWA, in the friendly person of Barry Malzberg, writes with great sympathy and a merry assurance that since my Pocket Books problem is a dispute between publishers (them and Arrow), SFWA is totally powerless to act despite its famed ability to force cancellation of entire packaging deals, etc. Poot. The other exciting development in my ever-retreating literary career is that Frederick Muller Ltd, after some quibbling over details ("Can we not substitute some other phrase for where it says 'made a right Holdstock of himself'?") have graciously accepted the novel which has been in their hands so long I've forgotten whether or not it was the butler who did it. Does this mean I have been paid huge sums as per contract? It does not. Charitable donations may be urgently requested at Novacon, in such terms as "Spare a pint of beer, kind sir/madam, with which I can buy a cup of coffee?"

Britain's Heaven in Eighty-Seven: As reported in Ansible [#35, various places], this incipient Worldcon bid should develop more than somewhat at Novacon. What I didn't know at the time was that 'Britain in 89' mutterings spied in Birmingham fanzines were to some extent serious (despite my inability to elicit any details) or that Steve – for it is he – Green would mightily offended by what he regards as 'Londonfandom's' (ie. my and Malcolm's) usurpation of a good Brummie notion. Judging by US fandom's desperate eagerness to persuade Brits to bid for 87 and spare them the horrors of US bids from Phoenix and San Diego, I suppose we're lucky there isn't a British 1987 bid for every UK fan who attended this year's Worldcon.

A couple of points. Gene Wolfe demanded at Fantasycon to be allowed to be a presupporter, and Malcolm graciously invented a £1 pre-supp membership fee to permit this – so the as yet inchoate 87 bid's membership list is headed by Gene, who just happens to be Guest of Honour at Melbourne in 1985, where the 1987 site selection will be made, ho ho. "I hereby encourage," he writes. "And it's damn nice of me to do so, I might add, after Malcolm cavalierly refused my unselfish offer to be guest of honour. I shall do all that lies in my power to persuade my friends to support Britain in '87, and when you win, I shall persuade the least savoury of them not to come. (You know who you are!)" The second point is that the 1984 Los Angeles Worldcon bid won partially on a platform of Manifest Destiny: "1984 is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the LA SF Soc – what clearer portent could there be?" And of course you all remember that the first British SF convention took place in Leeds in 1937....

Be interesting to see whether a 1987 steering committee can be comfortably put together at Novacon without either provoking great cries of Elitism! or acquiring vast quantities of deadwood (as did the Seacon 84 committee, by democratically adding to the committee anyone who volunteered: only quite recently have the non-active portions been Purged to leave a supremely ruthlessly efficient etc etc).

The Meaning of Liff: Looking into an advance copy of this Douglas Adams/John Lloyd potboiler, I was amazed to find it funny and quite good (had expected the worst after Life, the Universe and Everything). It's a sort of dictionary of placenames perverted into words which don't exist but supposedly should: I remember Paul Jennings did this in an article once, and I've never been able to forget such of his definitions as bodmin – archaic unit of time equal to one-sixtieth of a man-hour. Bodily secretions expert Chris Evans will find much to reward him in the Adams/Lloyd opus, knowing as much as he does about skegness (nose excreta of a malleable consistency) and peebles (small, carefully rolled pellets of skegness). And right here on the first page I find aberbeeg: 'Of amateur actors, to adopt a Mexican accent when called upon to play any variety of foreigner....'

Take heed, John Jarrold! Adams and Lloyd have got your number.

Send D. West to de West! Now revealed as a TAFF candidate after long prevarication, D. is 'becoming quite interested in the TAFF race. In particular I rather regret that I won't be at Novacon to tease Rob Hansen. Much innocent fun could be extracted from pointing out to him that he has Fallen Into My Trap. I mean, it's a certainty that his Platform will be the usual listing of number of fanzines published, cons attended etc, plus a promise to be clean diligent punctual and friendly ... I, on the other hand, take the Super-Elitist position that anyone who needs to be told stuff like that isn't qualified to vote at all ... and simultaneously put out a flyer which (just by coincidence) happens to list all my major claims to fame. Ah, the joys of a campaign based on pure Snob-Appeal. It's going to be very interesting to see what Honest Worth can come up with in reply. Weekly issues of Epsilon? Badges? Balloons? Free Gifts? Still, I'm sure he'll have the full support of the Geriatric Vote.' The West flyer alluded to is of course that urging you to buy, preferably before its Feb 84 publication, Fanzines in Theory and in Practice: Collected Articles 1976-82 by D. West. (Rush £3/$10, cash or sterling cheques only, to D at 48 Norman St, Bingley, W Yorks, BDI6 4JT, for your copy of this 180-page duplicated tome. Price rises to £4/$l5 in February.)' You will hear more of all this in Ansible 36, which despite the obvious superiority of D. West – as measured against the International Standard Metre – is offering its dubious support to R. Hansen. Who sounds as though he needs it.

The Scientific Art of Logic is not exactly the sort of book I usually go on about in fanzines. Picked up a copy of this 1960s tome for 50p since I've always been curious about all those classical syllogistic forms with funny names (barb-ara, celarent, baralipton etc). Well, I found out all right, and remarkably tautologous and useless it all is too, complicated Aristotelian guff which all went out of date in about 1847: the book comprises about a million variants on the famous fallacy "All men are mortal; D. West is a man; therefore D. West is mortal', all dressed up in slightly different forms of words [usually] boiling down to the exact same thing in symbolic logic – and there's even a solemn warning against symbolic logic since what was good enough for Aristotle etc. Maybe I should have been warned by the publishing imprint Christian Culture and Philosophy Series: such variety as there is comes from increasingly slanted syllogistic examples, lots of them being like (I quote) 'If John is a Communist, his children are in spiritual danger. But John is a Communist. Therefore his children are in spiritual danger.' Give me Lewis Carroll any day.

Dave Langford
94 London Road