Cloud Chamber 66
May 1996

The usual apologies (which I should obviously embody in a word processor macro) for my feeble Acnestis activity; the usual excuse is trotted out once again, and you are free to yawn at another mention of the Fantasy Encyclopedia. State of play: the A, B and C proofs have been corrected, D is imminently awaited, E, F and G should reach the typesetters before you see this, and the titanic bolus of H, I and J is being end-edited by Paul Barnett while John Clute and I fill in missing entries formerly assigned to Those Who Have Let Us Down. Editorial humour grows ever more puerile under stress: Mike Ashley's discovery of a missing F in 'shapeshifting' led, I regret, to an instant cod entry which is a bit funnier if you know the headword list, containing as it does things like FACE OF GLORY and RITUALS OF DESECRATION:

SHAPESHITTING Literary RITUAL OF DEFECATION enacted by many minor contributors to this Encyclopedia. The excremental prose shapes most often adopted for their entries are the horse and the bull. [MA/JC/JG/DRL]


I feared this issue was doomed, with Maureen's duplicators and my photocopier all on the blink. (Does anyone know why Canon PC desktop copiers, when inadequately warmed up, produce pictures of maggots uncannily resembling a b/w copy of the endpapers of Fungus the Bogeyman?) Happily, some replacement parts from Viking mail-order seem to have solved the problem. The cartoon is, again, from Sue Mason's batch of fun stuff carefully designed not to fit in Ansible.

Sue Mason: Sad Bastards of the Future No.5 – The Rocket Spotter

This month's great event: the publication of the stunningly brilliant The Unseen University Challenge, that Discworld quizbook in which Gollancz have surpassed their usual design flair by printing several quizzes so that answers appear on the facing page. Initially I wanted the answers printed upside down. Gollancz's Faith Brooker informed me (without apparently asking the designer) that this was technically impossible. So I reckoned on leaving space for blank pages to prevent the answers-facing-questions syndrome – only for Gollancz to decide at the last moment that (a) the questions, formerly approved with blanket enthusiasm, were all too difficult and needed to be softened with an easy 'starter' quiz and a vast Hints section; (b) there was now an absolute limit on the page count, bearing no relation to the page counts specified in the contract or early discussions with the production editor; (c) it was all Langford's fault that 13 pages of new material – see (a) – took the book over this limit; (d) also, it was Too Late for my feeble suggestion that in view of this overcrowding the answers had better all be grouped at the back. Another design triumph! Terry Pratchett, soothingly: 'Jeez, this is Gollancz – with Faith involved it's only a mercy the answers weren't printed first.'

Commonplace Book. 'The English instinctively admire any man who has no talent and is modest about it.' (James Agate, Ego 3, 1938)

Mailing 40Maureen ... how is the UK-SF e-mail list now looking? I'm trying to restrain myself from plunging in while all the current work overloads are on, but.... Regarding encoded files, I'll try and remember to enclose Xferpro 1.1.0, which handles BinHex. • Tony ... having been stuck with the INVISIBLE COMPANION FE entry this week, I couldn't resist dragging in a reference to Calvin and Hobbes! Sorry again to miss the party. As usual, the bony, spectral hand of literary overwork had me fast by the goolies. • Benedict ... gawd, I can't get away from the FE today! A while ago I wrote the KALEVALA entry, and made sure to cite Watson's Books of Mana. 'It's not fantasy!' bridled the feisty author at the Clarke ceremony. 'It's SCIENCE FANTASY,' I determinedly cross-referred.... Wrigley-Cross Books (sf from USA by e-mail) can be reached at ... No, I don't have a particular 'downer on Hamilton', but included him with other Famous Monster authors for the benefit of those here who loathe his stuff. (Is there a Paul Kincaid in the house?) • Jilly ... argh! you mentioned Tristram Shandy! Now I shall have to rave enthusiastically for several pages. On second thoughts, I can only afford one page this mailing. • Chris/Andy ... Hazel and I just bought some new bookcases and happily started filling them. ('But where did you find room to put them?' cries everybody who knows us. We cleverly arranged for the delivery van to take away an unwanted sideboard. Except that the driver and his mate hadn't apparently been told this, and surreptitiously vanished with Hazel running after their van shouting 'Wait! Wait! Wait!' So if anyone here wants an old sideboard....) Where was I? Oh yes: in cobwebbed piles of review books measureless to man, I discovered something whose arrival here in, gorblimey, 1987 must have completely failed to register. Having recently added this to the Wants List, I have laughingly crossed it off again: Swordspoint.... • Paul ... as you say, Riddley Walker becomes transparent when vocalized. I am bemused by the number of intelligent-seeming Americans in rec.arts.sf.written who bang on about the phonetic parts of Feersum Endjinn being totally unreadable – are more of us Brits possessed of super powers, or what? • Cherith ... aha, Charles WILLIAMS, yet another of my own FE entries. Suddenly distracted by the thought: how much of this bloody book have I written? Pause to count words in my ten files of entries: 65,721. So far. Not counting heavy rewrites of stuff by at least four other contributors. No wonder I feel tired! • Paul & Elizabeth ... A Good Thing. 'How angry would you be if it was suggested [1] That the XIth Chap. of the Consolations of Boethius was an interpolated palimpsest? [2] That an eisteddfod was an agricultural implement?' • Bruce ... I think I've been told that my personality is even less powerful than my legend. Am trying to work it out and see if it comes to a compliment! Bruce, I'm glad you liked the Chris Priest interview in SFX, and I do think it's much better in the full (2x) version. Would people like me to print it in full here? Warning: a 'full' text appeared in Critical Wave last year, though it was buggered around somewhat by Steve Green; CW subscribers might prefer not to go through that all over again. • Everyone Else ... usual thanks.