Cloud Chamber 62
September 1995

Somehow, until this month, the possibility of continued life after (one last time) The Scottish Convention seemed curiously remote. Well, it had its moments, and most of those I remember are in Ansible 98. Was there more? Going up by air was great fun (no, I couldn't really afford it but was determined to pamper myself), with little treats like watching the plane's rainbow-edged shadow hop and skip science-fictionally between the ground and cloud layers, showing that I don't fly often enough to get blasé about it. In Glasgow, I resolved that just once I would walk from the city centre to the distant SECC, and within minutes was spotted and given a lift by kindly Pat McMurray (thanks again): other resolutions, mostly concerning alcohol intake, were likewise broken in the following days. Chatting in bars and restaurants with various of You Lot was good fun, very much more so than trying to follow programme items through the venue's awful background rumble, drone and echo effects. After pious pre-convention noises about concern for disabled access, 'Intersection's message to anyone with a hearing loss was, in effect, "fuck you, go home".' – thus Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who is less tactful than I would be, but that's pretty much how it felt. The Hugo ceremony made up for much, of course, especially seeing mighty David Pringle collect a rocket at last: would he contrive, almost, to smile? (Microscopic examination of the photographs is still awaited.) And afterwards: house guests, more house guests, a mass of column and review deadlines, our party (glad to see some of You Lot again), John Brunner's funeral, the rush to do Ansible, and other complications best not written down. Sanity is expected to return, oh, some time in November.

House Guest Footnote: did anyone else have Ian Gunn and Karen Pender-Gunn to stay? Nice people, but after they left we were bemused to find a slip of paper on the hall notice-board, warning of the 'Plastic Spaceman Conspiracy' and claiming that at least ten small plastic figures had been concealed in this dwelling. Seven have indeed come to light (one plastic spaceman, the rest model German soldiers; Hazel was slightly upset to find one in her Very Private Room Which Others May Enter By Invitation Only). Yvonne will be able to confirm whether this is standard antipodean etiquette when staying with fannish acquaintances....

Mailing 32Tanya ... did I see you there as John Clute clarified Wrongness, Thinning and Healing in the Fantasy Encyclopaedia panel (the one where Langford kept deplorably lowering the tone)? I remember, during the actual event, getting the hang of the point about horror not progressing into real Healing even if you have killed all the vampires or whatever, and saying aloud: 'The thing is that a horror world remains a world where vampires are possible – there'll be another one along tomorrow.' Whereupon I swear I saw a 150w light bulb materialize briefly over Jilly's head.... • Ian asks 'isn't "rave review in Locus" a bit of a redundant phrase?' I used to think so myself, but Charles Platt explains that rare hatchet jobs are permitted if Locus's editor doesn't like you; he received one a few years back. • KVB ... John Clute, as reported in Ansible, did not call the TLS reviewing of sf disgraceful. He was correctly reported as saying that that the professionalism (or lack of it) of the TLS editors was a disgrace. E.g. heavy rewriting which severely modifies or reverses the meaning of sentences. Also, brutal cutting of reviews written exactly to length, followed (very unusually in publishing) by payment only for the fragment actually used, rather than what was commissioned and written in good faith.... Martyn Skinner's books: sources here list Merlin; or, The Return of Arthur. A Satiric Epic ... Part One (1951), the sequel The Return of Arthur (1955) which you mention, and nothing later except Old Rectory; or, the Interview (1977), a 'book-length narrative poem set in post-holocaust Somerset, in a land devastated by plague'. • Jane ... yes, William Mayne is apparently still alive; he's only 66 or 67. Yes, two of the choir-school quartet precede The Member for the Marsh (1956), which was his fifth book, but with more than 100 Mayne titles beginning in 1953 and still continuing, I reckon it's fair to call Member one of the earliest! • Yvonne ... Balls/ovaries/etc: sudden memory of a Milford discussion long ago. Chris Priest: 'This story really grabbed me by the goolies!' Various Others Around The Circle: [general agreement, often in similar words]. Transsexual Author: 'Well, this story grabbed me by the ... lips.' • Simon ... [Font Boredom Mode ON] Pig Nose? One of the irritations of computer fonts – especially anything on a free cover disk – is that they tend to be adapted/ripped off from copyright originals with oh-so-subtly changed names. Intersection believed themselves to be using a font called Penguin; you've found a clone called Pig Nose (which looks a bit horizontally 'stretched' to me); both are based on the long-established Peignot, © Linotype. I have another version from Bitstream, called Exotic, and have met many inferior variants.... [Font Boredom Mode OFF]Jilly ... that Roald Dahl frozen-joint-as-blunt-instrument story ('Lamb to the Slaughter') has gained the quality of an urban myth, to the extent of being retold with variations. The police are not shown realizing 'much too late' what the murder weapon was, as in your version, but obliviously eating it up while the murderous wife/cook giggles helplessly in the next room.... I wonder if Dahl was inspired by the remotely similar Dorothy Sayers short, 'The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps that Ran'?

Oddments • I was given a 'Christian SF/Fantasy Reading List' at Intersection (by, I think, Ross Pavlac). It doesn't mention James Blish. Discuss. • Reward of hubris: 'Writer beams up Sci-fi honours. Writer Dave Langford was feeling on another planet yesterday after scooping the science fiction world's equivalent of two Oscars. / Dave, 47, from London Road, Reading [...] beat thousands of other hopefuls after Sci-fi fans nominated him....' (Reading Evening Post, 31 Aug; I didn't intend to tell them but was shopped by Martin Hoare, rot him. Anoraks get a mention.) • Thog's Masterclass too-long-for-Ansible special, researched by Paul Barnett:

'I c ... can't,' I stammered, hunting nervously through my pockets, 'I can't seem to find my handkerchief. I m ... m ... must have dropped it when we came across the lake. Do you have any h ... h... handkerchiefs, Erik?'

He looked at me so sadly that I could have bitten my clumsy, stuttering tongue.

'I don't have much call for handerchiefs, my dear ... there are certain advantages, you see, in being without a nose.'

My hand flew to my mouth.

'Oh, Erik! I didn't think, I'm so sorry! Please don't give it another thought. I can quite easily sniff.'

(Susan Key, Phantom, 1990)