They breed in the sewers, you know ... when I listed my Fantasy Encyclopedia entries last issue, I hope that might be the lot. But silver-tongued John Clute then landed me with PUPPETS, QUEEN OF AIR AND DARKNESS, REAL BOY, RECURSIVE FANTASY, SACRIFICE, SECRET MASTERS, SELKIES, SHADOWS (literal sense only – he's doing the JUNGIAN PSYCHOLOGY angle; for this relief much thanks), STEPMOTHERS, SUPERSTITION, TOPSY-TURVY, TOYS, VENGEANCE and VISIONS. Argh. At least I resisted John's insidious argument that I must have much more recent memories of VIRGINITY than he. (As he persuasively put it, 'I've known nothing about that since 1958.') Once again, it's all out of the way; but normal life does not seem to resume. General run-downness prevails; after the intensity of the last year, I appear to have dropped out of the habit of relaxing. Also, upheavals continue: we are in the exciting throes of bathroom renovation (expect a christening party any month now), my office is in chaos owing to the introduction of a new Pentium 166 MHz computer for which I don't really have room, and two lots of Australian fans are coming to visit. Leigh Edmonds and Valma Brown arrive here on 22 July; I hope to lure them to the BSFA meeting on the 24th. Of special interest to Acne: Yvonne Rousseau and John Foyster are coming to Britain in September, probably demonstrating jet-lag at the Wellington pub meeting; ex-pat Judith Hanna intends to throw a party for them from 3pm on Saturday 14 September at her and Joseph Nicholas's home (15 Jansons Rd, Tottenham, London, N15 4JU; Seven Sisters tube) and has indicated that Acnestis will be welcome. Confirmation to follow, no doubt.
Commonplace Book. 'This was in the days before I had invented my frosted glass aquarium for shy fish.' (Alphonse Allais.)
The List. Actually I seem to have got a bit carried away in the attempt to relax. Alphonse Allais, The World of Alphonse Allais tr. Miles Kington – a sampling from the French humorous columnist whose bizarre inventiveness seems to prefigure Flann O'Brien's 'Myles na gCopaleen' (among others). Iain Banks, Excession, with his 'M.' firmly in place – the Big Not-So-Dumb Object of the title seems to be one of several major red herrings, the real story being about flaws in the Culture itself, and specifically the mingled deviousness and fallibility of its di ex machina Minds; Whit is a very funny (though not contemptuous) examination of the formation, growth, strengths and vulnerabilities of a modern cult, and caused frequent giggles. Robert Silverberg, Starborne, read for review. Recipe: take a big dollop of Heinlein's Time for the Stars and a climax swiped from Theodore Sturgeon's 'To Marry Medusa'. Heat to tepidity, and season with tasteful sex. Coat in an icy glaze of present-tense narration. Serve with professional skill coupled with vague disdain for the reader.... Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun, entire; Exodus from the Long Sun, which out-Wolfes Wolfe himself in its alternation of maddeningly discursive conversations and analyses with massive gaps (sorry, JC, I should have said lacunae) in the action ... some but not all explained by later infill. And it's got one of them there SLINGSHOT ENDING things, which suggests that numerous details are only going to come clear when I re-read the whole lot in sequence. Oh dearie me. Roger Zelazny is one of my occasional Binge Authors: this time, the first (but emphatically not the second) Amber series, Doorways in the Sand, Eye of Cat, Jack of Shadows and Roadmarks – none of them, perhaps, among his very best, but all spiffy reading ... if you skim the immense info-dump synopses in the second and subsequent Amber volumes.
Mailing 42 ... Regarding Fantasy of Manners in general, I've been meaning for a while to mention that Elizabeth Willey (who used to copy Ansible to the GEnie BBS, where hordes of US sf people hung out until the prices were trebled this year) has remainders of her first book The Well-Favored Man and possibly also A Sorcerer and a Gentleman, and tells me that rather than struggle against exchange rates she will send copies to Britain on the honour system, whereby you make a donation to an approved cause over here. (Amnesty was the one she most recently mentioned.) Anyone interested? Regarding the ongoing John Clute comments, I can't resist including (overleaf) the mysterious verses which appeared at our party and are attributed to Chris Bell. As is the typing. Chris ... I do hope your decision to resign from the Civil Service will be as unregretted as mine. I stood it for only 5 years rather than 10, but it still seems horribly memorable. [...] Jane [...] The first story that I can remember as giving me nightmares was William Hope Hodgson's 'The Whistling Room', one of the Carnacki occult-detective tales: I suppose there was something particularly hard-hitting in the idea of the room's actual walls and floor being untrustworthy and likely at any moment to come bellying out (or up) as a huge pair of lips. Which is why I had a distinct jolt when we moved here, had a carpet fitted in the front sitting-room, and discovered that in high winds the draughts through the cellar window and underfloor vents would make the carpet ... excuse me, I need to lie down for a bit. Steve ... several people sent me a Rolling Stone account of Leary's last days: 'For some time tension had been building up between CryoCare and Leary's crew. CryoCare felt that Leary's folks had shown disrespect for the equipment by decorating it with lights and toys, and also believed that some people at the house had been trying to keep CryoCare's technicians away from Leary. More importantly, CryoCare's Mike Darwin had grown alarmed about Leary's pronouncements on his plan to commit suicide live (so to speak) on the World Wide Web. Darwin did not feel that his organization (whose brochure bears the motto, Many are cold, but few are frozen) could afford to be involved in what he termed a potential crime scene or that it should leave its equipment in a house where illegal drugs may be present or used. For their part, the Leary folks had become increasingly put off by what they regarded as CryoCare's ghoulish interest in obtaining the head of Timothy Leary. The problem was exacerbated when they learned that a CryoCare official who would be involved in the decapitation and freezing process, Charles Platt, had an assignment to write about the operation for Wired magazine. (Platt had also been sending serial e-mail to various parties, expressing his disdain for the Leary crew and his impatience with Leary for not dying as soon as had been expected. "What insane will to live," he wrote in one letter.)' (Rolling Stone July 11-25, 1996) [...]