Cloud Chamber 31
October 1984

Cloud Chamber 31 :: a sort of supplement to CC30 :: from Dave Langford :: Oct 84

I've never come so near gafiation as in the last several weeks. Illness and deadlines haven't helped, but fandom has chiefly seemed Not Fun thanks to the endless repercussions of Dick Bergeron's 'impeachment' of Avedon Carol – an attack whose venomous tone would make it offensive even if well-founded, but which seems based in large part on sheer rhetoric and cobwebs. Dave Locke's voluminous (and dare i say it, rather pompous) efforts to Sift The Issues and Find The Truth are no doubt well-meant but seem (a) badly timed – the white heat of this controversy is hardly the best setting for the calm appraisal of TAFF ethical guidelines which Dave says he's trying to achieve; (b) predicated on the assumption that where there's smoke there's fire and Avedon must have done something pretty evil otherwise RB would never have flown off the handle – a debatable point, there being other ways of annoying people than mishandling fan funds; (c) tactless – I'm glad to see the veiled allegation of possibly forged letters (see CC30) has been withdrawn, but its appearance in the first place in an 'impartial forum' was an incredible turn-off; (d) beside the point in their persistent reiteration that Avedon should Make A Statement about her letter to RB which allegedly "released TAFF voting details which should have been confidential" (RB) or merely mentioned that some people had voted for West, and stuff like that" (AC) – a Statement not being possible since AC foolishly kept no copy of the letter. I understand RD has been asked to release a xerox. Fair enough. I don't know how many people would really consider it a hideous crime to drop a hint, under DNQ request (violated in spirit if not in letter by RB), to someone who'd already voted and therefore couldn't be influenced. Everybody seems to believe the TAFF ballot text forbids release of such data, by the way: the actual phrasing is "Details of voting will be kept secret", which – since a varyingly detailed voting breakdown is and must be published in the end, clearly refers to individual details of who voted for whom. No, I don't think interim tallies should be released; but those keen to hang people on the basis of the Letter Of The Law should perhaps take note.

A couple of points need mild clarification. Firstly: I almost immediately had second thoughts about a phrase in CC30, followed by third thoughts, and typed on RB's advance copy: Dear Dick, At first I regretted hastily having typed overleaf, "Avedon Carol and TAFF" instead of just "Avedon". But in effect even if not by intention, you are damaging TAFF itself by launching an attack so vicious in tone. Fling enough shit and it'll stick anywhere. I'm depressed and disappointed by the whole affair. Gafiation may loom. We'll see. Recipients of Wiz 12 will have seen how extensively RB takes this qualifier into account, ie. not at all. Wiz 12 also disputes Patrick's data re Terry Carr in CC30; over to Terry, I suppose....

Secondly – I feel a bit guilty about this one. After a letter from Avedon in which she still hadn't learnt to spell 'Hansen', I replied (inter alia): Bergeron writes, "A further example of Avedon's disingenuousness is seen in the letter she wrote Langford on 27 August, in which she misspells Rob Hansen's name as 'Hanson' throughout. Who does she think she's fooling with this transparent effort to spread the implication that she's already forgotten her co-conspirator in this coldly calculated plot to stab D. West to the heart with a poisoned domino ..." (etc, etc, for five pages.) OK, this wasn't all that good a joke: is it a comment on human folly, on my brilliant parodic powers, or on the paranoid climate engendered by RB, that Avedon and apparently Ted White took this seriously, the latter even taxing RD with 'that letter to Langford' and not unnaturally receiving a denial?

Finally: I really can't cope with this whole business. I have worse deadline problems than over, I haven't been well, and simply reading the vast wads of stuff generated by all this has left me badly depressed and blocked on my alleged new novel. Accordingly I've passed most of the material on to D. West (who expressed curiosity – him being the injured party according to RB, though D. seems neither to mind nor to quite believe he lost TAFF because Avedon told all the voters that dominoes was a boring spectator sport, this being RB's key allegation). I cannot be relied on to take part in further discussion. I'm desperately busy ... Dave L

PS: Actually, following expressions of sympathy, condolence and please-cheer-up-and-don't-put-your-head-in-that~gas-oven from various good people, I should mention that I've subsequently contrived to cheer up a bit. The good cheer has been augmented by Sane Men K. Smith and C. Harris, whose pronouncements in the cause of sweetness and light helped reassure me that fandom isn't that bad. Even the interminable nitpicker Dave Locke has paused to state in Outworlds – admittedly in another context – his personal rules for fanwriting, beginning: "If it doesn't interest or amuse you, don't write it. If it isn't going to be of much interest or amusement to someone else, don't publish it." Quite. I hope Dave Locke reads Outworlds. Part of my personal anti-gloom therapy is to put this principle into practice forthwith. The other part is to stop opening letters postmarked in Puerto Rico.

There seems to be a lot of space left, so I'll indulge myself (take cover, Mr Kincaid) in an extended quotation from G.K. Chesterton, whose reaction to certain Great Fannish Issues it would have been nice to see....

Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

The madman's explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. Or, to speak more strictly, the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable; this may be observed specially in the two or three commonest kinds of madness. If a man says (for instance) that men have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except by saying that all the men deny that they are conspirators; which is exactly what conspirators would do. His explanation covers the facts as much as yours. Or if a man says that he is the rightful King of England, it is no complete answer to say that the existing authorities call him mad; for if he were King of England that might be the wisest thing for the existing authorities to do. Or if a man says that he is Jesus Christ, it is no answer to tell him that the world denies his divinity; for the world denied Christ's.

Nevertheless he is wrong. But if we attempt to trace his error in exact terms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed. Perhaps the nearest we can get to expressing it is to say this: that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large. A bullet is quite as round as the world, but it is not the world. There is such a thing as a narrow universality; there is such a thing as a small and cramped eternity; you may see it in many modern religions. Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction. The lunatic's theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way. I mean that if you or I were dealing with a mind that was growing morbid, we should be chiefly concerned not so much to give it arguments as to give it air, to convince it that there was something cleaner and cooler outside the suffocation of a single argument. (ORTHODOXY, 1908)

But enough of irrelevant spacefillers. This has been


Dave Langford
94 London Road