Cloud Chamber 69
August 1996

Time flies. Yes, I did end up doing a further wad of entries for the Book It Has Become Too Boring To Mention. Yes, Judith Hanna confirms that Acnestis is invited en masse to her and Joseph Nicholas's party for Yvonne Rousseau and John Foyster, from 3pm on Sat 14 September at 15 Jansons Rd, Tottenham, London, N15 4JU. The nearest tube is Seven Sisters (Victoria Line). Bring a bottle, I imagine. Following regrettable doings at a previous party in the wake of a discussion of Plastic Spacemen, visitors to this house are now required to swear a solemn oath that they will not mock Joseph's obsessive tidiness by moving ornaments, swapping around books and CDs on the shelves, etc. (Seriously, now.)

The List, Continued ... while rushing to do last month's CC, I left out several recently-read books and so failed even more miserably than usual to approach Jane's legendarily voluminous input. Omissions included here! Brian Aldiss, The Pale Shadow of Science, ... And the Lurid Glare of the Comet, and This World and Nearer Ones – highly rereadable essays about sf, its borderlands, and Aldiss himself. • Roger McBride Allen, Isaac Asimov's Utopia, read for review – third and supposedly last of his robot spinoff sequence, in which Allen breaks slightly free of Asimovian logic-chopping with some larger-scale sf special effects which he clearly finds more fun. • Margery Allingham, Mr Campion and Others and The Return of Mr Campion, assuaging a sudden brief need to read short detective stories. • Isaac Asimov, Magic – another posthumous collection padded out with more or less relevant essays. It was mildly interesting to see the old boy trying out a new (to me, from him) vein of polysyllabic humour in his 'Azazel' fantasies. • Dave Barry, Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys – this US humorist (first recommended to me by Jerry Kaufman in Seattle) has the quality, unusual among droll US newspaper columnists, of being actually funny. According to me. And Douglas Adams, but never mind him. • Avram Davidson, Masters of the Maze – an oldie which would be pure pulp if not for Davidson's wondrous erudition and flair for oddity. • Neil Gaiman & Ed Kramer, ed, The Sandman Book of Dreams ... a spinoff anthology of remarkably good stories using (often very remotely) the Sandman pantheon and props. One is 'Ain't You 'Most Done?' by Gene Wolfe, listed in Foundation 66 as an unpublished 'metafictional comment on his "lack of progress of Exodus from the Long Sun"' ... could Wolfe be pulling critics' legs again? • Diana Wynne Jones, A Sudden Wild Magic – heaps of fun (I missed the US edition), but in some ways this 'adult' fantasy seems to be a compilation of familiar devices from DWJ juveniles – e.g. direct analogues of the fire demons in Howl's Moving Castle. There's something particularly characteristic about the prolonged climax in which the various fates of a rather large cast are individually settled. • Lawrence M.Krauss, The Physics of Star Trek – a sort-of-OK pop-science squib which I thought could often have gone a bit deeper without alarming people with rebarbative equations.... • R.A.Lafferty, Half a Sky – book 2 of 'The Coscuin Chronicles', following from The Flame is Green: weird mix of high adventure, intense fantasy/horror episodes, and discursive material about the Matter of South America in the mid-19th century. Towards the end, RAL in his Catholic way lists the contemporary agents of Satan on Earth: 'The twelve Devil's Disciples are Schopenhauer, Feuerbach, Comte, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich David Strauss, Marx, Kierkegaard, Haeckel, Fechner, Fichte, Renane, Sainte-Beuve.' I wonder if he has a 1990s list. Also: Archipelago, the prequel to The Devil is Dead, which has some great moments but fails to hang together (too many characters, too little continuity). • Madeleine L'Engle, Meet the Austins – idly read to confirm that it has no fantastic content. Now seems much more cosy and preachy than I remember of old. • Roger Norman, Albion's Dream, Faber Teenage Paperbacks – picked up owing to idle curiosity, a jacket plug from Kaye Webb, and a £1 price tag (big heap in little remainder shop near Embankment station). The eponymous board game comes with a Tarot-like pack of character cards, and its play resonates with reality; the schoolboy protagonist and friend find that two cards, the Friendly Hangman and Pellinore, correspond to their ogrelike headmaster and a favoured teacher, and start manipulating the play. Eccentric, old-fashioned, a little bit mythago-ish, and more interesting than hordes of fantasies whose authors do get an FE entry. • Rabelais, Gargantua – as odd and erudite as anticipated; I was grateful that my copy, besides illustrations by Frank C. Papé, has footnotes explaining some details of the religious satire. Under all the shit jokes and bawdry, the allusiveness makes Gulliver's seem transparent. Decided to leave Pantagruel for a bit longer.... • Dorothy Sayers, Clouds of Witness – thanks to a sudden need for something utterly undemanding. I still enjoy the magnificently absurd set-piece of the House of Lords trial ... and imagine Sayers grinning manically as she wrote it. (Actually I slipped into binge mode and read lots more Sayers after this. Guilty secrets.) • Jack Vance, Night Lamp – his new sf novel, which reads well enough, is quite interestingly sinister in places, and contains some effective ironies ... but tends to recycle plot elements which Vance has used elsewhere. For example, one character's articulate madness (or accommodation to madness) is a virtual replay of Kirdy's in the Cadwal Chronicles. • Roger Zelazny ... more minor but fun works: Dilvish the Damned, Changeling and its sequel Madwand, The Changing Land – whose sly connection with The House on the Borderland is worth a smile – and My Name Is Legion.

Mailing 43Langford erroneously assumed that 'Wild Canadian Boy, The' was by Chris Bell, who distributed it. Now that the true author has been reassured that John & Judith Clute weren't annoyed at all (but loved it), his name can be revealed: Tom Holt. • Tanya ... although, upon receiving my e-mail, you instantly remembered that long glum poem The City of Dreadful Night (1874) by James Thomson (1834-82), I bet you will now have to run the gauntlet of Acnestis Synchronicity as everyone else eagerly provides this data! • Cherith ... I think I mailed you that Rex Stout article. • KVB ... this will probably form part of another many-mouthed Acnestic chorus, but Finnegans Wake doesn't exactly begin with 'River' and end with 'run': the first word is the portmanteau 'riverrun' (no capital) and the joining-up last sentence is 'A way a lone a last a loved a long the' ... • Bruce ... I think I've sent you a disk with the Chris Priest interview, uncut. It will also be reappearing in Steve Brown's SF Eye at some stage. • Chris ... I keep meaning to ask: does this CD-ROM edition of SFX contain my column(s)? No complimentary copy has ever reached me. • Everyone Else was also jolly splendid, but I've no time for more! • Terminal Naffness ...