Cloud Chamber 25
November 1983

CLOUD CHAMBER 25 • something for FRANK'S APA the third, from Dave Langford, 94 London Road, Reading, Berks, RGI 5AU. 30 Nov 1983.

Evening, all. This here is a special All-Mailing-Comments Issue, in which your hero grovels in the direction of all the disgustingly good stuff in the second FRANK's, feels guilty at lack of mailing comments last tine, and indeed feels guilty about a whole lot of things, many not clearly definable. First: thanks to all who read CC21/4 with its theme of Abject Poverty, and posted along useful supplies like fish fingers, slices of toast and vitamin pills stapled to postcards. The crisis has been slightly reduced by the arrival of the novel's on-delivery (sic) payment, only three months late, and you are permitted to dry your eyes. First thing I did was nip into Reading and, quite literally, buy a couple of new pairs of shoes....

Armadillos (Bell), with its mention of Gannetfandom feeling 'stretched' doing the Seacon 84 fanroom plus Mexicon plus Silicon, set me wondering again whether Hazel and I really want to visit Newcastle twice in a year. Obviously one can't miss Mexicon (and anyway the fabulous Persil train tickets are still working then, making it Economically Attractive). But maybe later in the year we'll have a change and go to Oxcon, which is practically on our doorstep: encouraging new talent, or untalent, as the case may be.

Well, I don't share this record-buying folly, Harry. If someone had a cure for the book-buying folly Vd probably be rich, assuming I could come to terms with my beer-buying and fanzine-publishing and con-going follies...

Mental Floss (Pickersgill, L): With titles as good as that, who needs a fanzine? Seems Unfair that the stuff inside is pretty good too, including the mailing's best out-of-context quotation: '... l'm not the first to discover the dead but the point is that no one I had lived with, married, slept with or otherwise shared accornodation with had been into the dead.' (Capital D's suppressed with malice aforethought, but honestly, my eye did fall first on that line and I did have one moment of nervous doubletake.) Talking to Eve, you go on about $ and ¢ and # keys as not found on UK keyboards ... get a golfball typewriter and all things are possible. Including Japanese: IBM make two standard golfballs for Japanese, despite your suspicion that there are too many ideograms for typewriters to be workable. The way I heard it: it's Chinese that has the vast range of symbols and enormous great cumbersome typewriters on which 10 characters per minute is considered pretty good. The Japs pinched most of this but had the sense to devise a phonetic alphabet which works handily on typewriters: so they can produce fanzines with no trouble (dunno if they do) while the Chinese probably aren't allowed to.

Falling (Pickersgill, G): While reading this I kept jumping up and down shouting YES YES YES! – which did attract some attention on the train down from Novacon, but I have no shame (not in my post-con state, anyway). For a long while I lived in a state of anaesthesia about the disarmament question – you can imagine why – but have been increasingly subject to doubts about the sense of having such financial sinkholes as Polaris and Trident on our hands, let alone the sense of a British Independent 'Deterrent' at all. On the other hand I've never been too sure whether standing up and being counted did any good either, and there always seemed to be a carnival aspect to big marches and demonstrations which made me wonder what all this was achieving when the media (without even trying particularly hard) could always come up with lots of coverage showing people having Fun Fun Fun. I'm not actually terribly pleased (despite confirmation of inner Langfordian thoughts) to find you saw it like this but even more so from the inside: what, after all, is there left to do? Start infiltrating politics until 25 years hence the crypto-CND hordes who now comprise the Cabinet whip off their masks and disarm? Hardly. And yes, and yes, I'm with you up to a point on that last shred of doubt, the 'nuclear blackmail' worry which might just be averted by a few British nasties for counterblackmail. But it's an all-or-nothing matter, very nearly; half-measures like your fleet of battered revenge planes are simply not going to work and would just get blown out of the sky by defences meant to intercept a fair proportion of the thousands of missiles expected in a major superpower exchange. Unless one plans a furtive, underhand and secret revenge route (I have this vision of bloody great megaton weapons in the cellars of UK embassies in Washington, Moscow, everywhere that might deserve Pickersgill's Revenge) you probably have to take the whole weapons package we have; the ridiculous amounts being spent on it aren't as gratuitous as may seem, being largely concerned with upgrades to penetrate constantly improving countermeasures. I don't actually believe that the Whole Package is a good thing, though, and there's certainly a chance that even an antiquated old Polaris missile could still get through: depends how certain your want your revenge to be. (Maggie's Megadeaths or Disarmament? Which shall it be, Pickersgill? Which shall it be?)

Hand Jive (Williams): Oh God, it's like the serpent's petrifying gaze... I hoped it would never come up, my secret shame, but you started it, Ian, with that mention of your 48K Spectrum computer (horrible things, keyboard makes typing like squashing small rubbery sea creatures), the perfect opening for me to chime in with gossip about the TRS-80, the Jupiter Ace, the Commodore 64, the ... enough. We computerholics have to watch ourselves. A single 'social' byte can lead to a lost weekend and a long recuperation while medics clean the machine code from our brains...

Cloud Chamber (Langford): It's extraordinarily worrying, reading this and remembering the near-hysteria prevailing when I wrote it. It calls up stuff I'd normally forget, like waking up each morning and running to open the post and being unable to work for sheer rage because the fuckers still hadn't come through with my rightful due and nobody could help. And then I got paranoid at Novacon and handed out more copies than I intended to (thinking: I'll never afford to post the buggers), and realized later I'd given some out before FRANK was officially distributed, thus no doubt incurring Public Censure in this mailing's front bit.

A fascinating footnote to SFWA's total indifference to getting vast sums out of Pocket Books for me. A week or two after I found that, though unwilling to do the work they were formed for, SFWA were quite ready to take up the cudgels against small-circulation fanzines. An official ticking-off from President Marta Randall arrived at Ansible HQ, severely reproving me on behalf of the SFWA Ethics Committee following a rumour in number 35. (What rumour? Well, as a hint, I also had irate letters from Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Andre Norton's agent and Andre Norton's lawyer – the latter demanding a full recantation within 60 days or his personal friend in a very big English law firm (unspecified) would personally, well, do something pretty awful.) See Langford abase himself in issue 36!

y.dl (Firth): Ouch! :: Never you mind what Harry Bell says. What does he know? As Wittgenstein remarked, 'What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence' (not admittedly a precept the old boy followed himself), and that sounds about right for mailing comments. If you've no ideas and/or no room, why rabbit on just because you feel you 'ought' to say something? Just as a point of principle I shall now demonstrate by ignoring Eve's tantalizing comment-hook about wanting a house like ours, and refrain from mentioning that the identical place next door is, I believe, on the market...

Deadzone (Dorey): I liked the way this stopped tantalizingly in mid-sentence, leaving the reader confronted with the profound existential resonances of the aching white space overleaf, and ... wait a minute, you said something about this, didn't you, FRANK? About how I'd have got a better copy if I'd remembered the collating party? Oh well.

LlONS (Williams, K): Have just abandoned the italic headings because the spring in this golfball has gone spung and left it apparently welded on to the typewriter. (This, Linda, is why you don't want a golfball typewriter.) Drinking with Harry Bell sounds a lot like drinking with Martin Hoaro. You have to keep buying rounds in order to get the subject off computers, and somehow they accumulate in front of him until gurgle the whole lot vanishes just at 'Can I have your glasses please' time. Afterwards there is the ritual lift home in Martin's car, taken at incredible speed in the hope (presumably) of making it back before the vast bellyful of Courage Directors can diffuse into his bloodstream...

FOOL (Hamilton): The only opinion I have about at-con fanzines is that I'd rather not do the work. I've only seen a few: the Jackie Lichtenberg broadsheets at Seacon (brilliantly successful, eh wot?) and an assortment of newsletters put out at cons by someone vaguely endorsed by the committee (Seacon, Noreascon, and other worldcons I didn't attend but from which stuff found its way to me). The former bit of subversion (Jackie) was only made possible by the equipment got in for the Seacon 79 newsletter, which like all the other such things was boring and unprovocative ... which could not, I suppose, be said of its vibrant editor Gr*ham Engl*nd. Did you know that Gr*ham was mooted as a newsletter editor for Seacon 84, only for it to be revealed with relish at one of their committee meetings that the steadily declining standards of the Seacon 79 newsletter were because GE made advances to all of the trained female typists in succession, finally leaving only a couple of inept male fans? (What a sexist story: but that's how I heard it.)

OUTSIDE (Bridges): A long time since I've seen such an exhaustively intelligent discussion in a fanzine, boss. In a way it defies comment: except in that there's one point I can't make without doing exactly what worries me in your defence of ******. So SCRUB THIS FROM YOUR BRAIN AFTER READING: I had some correspondence with ****** earlier in the year and particularly noted her point that after a sex change one wants to cut the links with the old personality. One doesn't want to be regarded as a 'transsexual', as something special and odd. And in order to counter some stuff of Lisa Tuttle's which treats ****** as special and odd, you are forced to emphasize (in a wider forum, now, than the Women's Periodlcal – or a different one, anyway, thus widening the 'circle of discourse') the exact point about ****** which I believe she considers painful and to be buried. This is not a question of 'memes' – nice coinage, if it is a coinage – but of more or less objective knowledge. Fortunately it isn't going to come as a surprise to anyone in FRANK ... but isn't this kind of discussion the sort of thing likely to lead to people being pointed out to new fans as famous transsexuals? It's a difficult question all round. You can burn this paragraph now.

PLEDGET (Barfoot): I was much taken with the title, surprised to find it in every dictionary to hand, and disappointed when all of them (except Webster's Unabridged, which had a secondary meaning concerning nautical caulking with oakum) insisted that a pledget was a wad of lint not extracted from the navel but used to cover wounds and sores. What a let-down. Unless of course your navel takes the form of a hideous purulent running sore, in which case the discrepancy could be easily explained.

PUSHOUT (Warren): Look, this is getting beyond a joke. When I typed that title a little springy bit of metal came flying out of the top of the golfball and hit me on the nose. And it's all your fault, Anne. When I get to the end of this stencil I'll have to spend half an hour trying to remove the blasted golfball with pliers, and if past experience is anything to go by having to break it into tiny pieces to get it off. All right, it's partly Kev Williams's fault; the trouble started with the comments on his piece.

QUOTE (Frost); Of course I agree about complete, detailed mailing comments, as in not doing them. So let's just pick up on some recurring points I failed to tackle in all the above, ie. the questions of Monthliness (which has now been decided at Novacon – grumbling acquiescence) and Binding. I prefer the binder because (just like you, Abi) I lose things all too easily. On the other hand it was a bloody awful struggle getting the wretched thing sweated gradually onto this huge wad of fanzines, and then I found Quote of the Week sitting on the floor looking untameable and nonconformist,, and had to start all over again. Of course when you've finally got the binder on you know it'll never come off again (just like this damn golfball – I've just tried with screwdriver and pliers), but is such a great spasm of effort really good for us? FRANK'S: the Coronary Apa.