Cloud Chamber 54
October 1994

So there I was eating a pizza while waiting for Ansible to be printed, and catching up on Pringle Fantasy Guide reading with a copy of The Greater Trumps, when the salt-cellar I'd placed to hold down the springy pages fell over. It is eerie to realize that metaphor has come to life and one is literally taking Charles Williams's theology with a pinch of salt....

• Of course the most awesome item among recent reading was Judge Dredd: The Hundredfold Problem by 'John Grant', inexplicably not yet submitted for the Arthur C.Clarke Award. Those who dimly remember how our favourite critic Chris Gilmore trashed Grant's The World in Interzone (on grounds that deluded fanboys like John Clute thought unreasonable) will find a certain, ah, existential resonance in the cameo of the Neanderthal man Kr'sg'lm'r (with his mate Iz), whose stunted intellect is totally unable to comprehend the world. Other characters include Skullcrusher Kincaid and a programmer called Chuck Strozza who wanders pathetically around the plot trying to show people his wads of print-out. Literary analysis has yet to crack the identity of the huge, gluttonous woman whose party trick is to arm-wrestle four stevedores simultaneously. Roxy Cardano? Beats me.

Please Read The Instructions

Rob Holdstock bought a new computer from Ansible Info and nervously asked whether what he called the low-radiation keyboard would have the layout he was used to. It was time to compose a reassurance in authentic style....

Yakimoto Computer Bits

To know you great joy in your newest Yakimoto LOW-RADIATION KEYBOARD, for which we congratulate! Never do you regret. Instructings are simple in all way. First, you know in happy 1993 EC regulation conformities making keys alterated from bad old QWERTY standard. To be pressing Q when intended Z, and so forth for all others. Soon you type at great swiftness!

Attention! New special key coding are added toward your pleasurable conveniences. E.g. for the initiating of Return do now strike not simultaneous both Alt, Space bar and small red click switch placed for avoiding of harmful access underneath disk drive. Likewise is for Tab, except to beware power overload danger if too rapid manipulate, or otherwards. Extreme inadvisable Shift or Esc key when hard disk light at glow! This are important warn.

Use BZ96000-56a/04 hex rotator tool (not supply) for needful adjust each 10,000 keystrokes or any serious overheat.

Please to communicate all your trouble and injury with convenient e-mail sending: Also to fax at number imprinted hereto:

Warranty form must be complete. To avoiding incorrectness, as entering name in NAME box or other improper. Sections of shock, burn and radiation unwell most important completed fulsomely. Must to remit by August 1994 or utter void, retaining yourself also all original packing materials.

We give glad assurance Ansible Information is not responsible. Thanking you for refined attendings.

Letter to David Pringle

Well, I had to say it; do others disagree?

Er, I felt a little embarrassed when Interzone 88 turned up, having complained about several aspects of the proofs you showed me when under the impression that this was a dummy Paul Brazier had fudged up to demonstrate what he might do, rather than the real thing!

All the same, having said it I'll stick by it. It is certainly arguable that Interzone as we know it has been a bit staid, even boring in design. But as a writer and a reader I do strongly think that text is there to be read, not to be treated as a dull necessity from which the punters' attention must constantly be distracted. Striking layout must always be balanced against the need for the text to be readable.

Thus I think the contents list is a hard-to-parse dog's breakfast thanks to that random scatter of clip art (made worse by its variety of sizes and textures). Similarly, I disapprove of wrapping text around graphics or headers in ways that make it less easy to read, as on pages 5, 24 (third column), 26 (to a slight extent), 53, 55 and above all 57 (centre column – ugly, ugly!). Printing art over text is just plain bloody annoying: e.g. pages 28 and 29. The roman body type is OK, if not as readable as the heavier face of recent Interzones, but the italic face is a further irritation – those twee 'calligraphy' flourishes (b, h, k) mean it calls attention to itself where a body type should be 'transparent'.

Put it down to mere personal taste that I don't much like the use of a lighter face for capitals in the running heads throughout (and seemingly at random in some other headlines), and had hoped that that Nexus cartoon of me wouldn't see the light of day again ...! I also prefer justified right-hand margins in professional publications. And doesn't using little ringed planets as end-of-story markers have a certain ... well ... tacky, sci-fi obviousness?

Oh well. Basically this is all 'I don't know much about design but I know what I don't like', and perhaps you'll get some more useful input from more knowledgeable readers.

Obviously I have an interest in 'the future contents of the magazine'! Trying to set aside the fact that my own IZ column is subject to this criticism, I must say that a fair bit of Paul's choice of nonfiction seems too lightweight and fanzine-like for Interzone. I would much prefer you to retain complete editorial control.

Mailing Comments and All That

Paul. Sublimity, Grandeur, Sense of the Terrific: the source of this title finally hit me after months of vague presumption that it would be found in some Coleridge essay. Are you, perchance, a closet phrenologist? Andrew S. Your exaggerated alarm at having liked a Philip G.Williamson book which I didn't (or not all that much) is, I hope, only a merry jape. Let a hundred flowers bloom, etc. Ian. No, I didn't think there was a lot wrong with Phillip Mann's Escape to the Wild Wood, besides too much early auctorial exposition in rather irritating tones: I was merely saying it didn't strike me as 'major award' material. Speaking of which, the latest Clarke award shipment is from Pan and comprises Poul Anderson's Harvest of Stars, Eric Brown's Engineman, and Peter F.Hamilton's A Quantum Murder. See Ansible 86-7 for the rest.