Cloud Chamber 96
July 1999

Ugh, horrible hot weather: I've been cowering indoors doing more reviews for Meanwhile Hazel organized a long-awaited domestic upheaval: farewell to the battered old stainless-steel kitchen sink unit and grotty melamine cupboard, now replaced by a wall-to-wall maple counter and one of those enormous old-style white-fireclay sinks. I keep hoping to schedule a Kitchen Warming Party, but current timetables are a little tight. Watch this space.

Thog's Critical Masterclass. 'However, [Alan] Garner's third novel, Elidor (1965), had nothing to do with the theme or characters of the first two books and was lighter in tone. Subsequent books, like The Owl Service (1967), are disappointing. It is regrettable to see an author of great potential failing to fulfill that promise.' (Lin Carter, Imaginary Worlds, 1973)

Mailing 77, July 1999

Penny (and other poem-quoters, notably Claire) ... quoting in full only 'one poem from an anthology' does, alas, go beyond the Society of Authors and Publishers Association fair-usage guidelines. The Summer 1999 issue of The Author states what's considered reasonable: 'the use of a single extract of up to 400 words or a series of extracts (of which none exceeds 300 words) to a total of 800 words from a prose work, or of extracts to a total of 40 lines from a poem, provided that this did not exceed a quarter of the poem. The words must be quoted in the context of "criticism or review". / While this statement does not have the force of law, it carried considerable weight with a judge experienced in copyright in a leading infringement case.' Of course no one is likely to chase Acnestis, which could arguably be defended as private correspondence! However, when I put CC95 on the web site, I did first ask Neil Gaiman: 'Yes, of course you can use the triolet. I'm flattered. Put a © DC Comics at the bottom of the page to show willing.'

Mary ... as creative misrememberings go, your transformation of Chesterton's 'The Vampire of the Village' into 'The Affair of the Village Vamp' is splendid. There are a couple more Father Brown stories that don't appear in the standard omnibus edition. 'Father Brown and the Donnington Affair' is a 1914 gimmick piece instigated by editor Max Pemberton of The Premier Magazine, who wrote the first half of the story – strewing clues with a liberal hand – and left Chesterton to bring on Father Brown and unravel the problem by characteristically inverting the significance of various bits of evidence. 'The Mask of Midas' was hastily written during Chesterton's last illness, and is pretty poor; it was rejected at the time and apparently didn't see print until the recent, colossal US Collected Works.

Paul K. How well I remember that dread, repeated cry during family holidays of yore: 'DAVID! STOP READING THAT BOOK! YOU'RE HERE TO ENJOY YOURSELF!' • I almost wish your question 'How do you write text to accompany a collection of book covers?' had been asked as part of an interview. At first the Josh Kirby book gave me some misgivings as I imagined myself desperately writing stuff like, 'In this painting Kirby makes masterful use of er, shapes.... Colours too.' Well, I tried to find some tiny pattern or plot to help organize each of the six sections. The first traced Josh's battles with the Gollancz art department, for example (at one point their demands nearly made him quit). Another had a longish digression about the golden section and the related logarithmic spiral curve which is supposed to be a universal factor in (Western) art and which Josh recognized in his own stuff when a fan pointed it out to him. His own letters about the paintings were a good source of interesting comments too, and – to my relief – he happily confirmed almost all my queries about conscious influences: Bruegel and Bosch of course, Arthur Rackham, Arcimboldo, Richard Powers, a nod to Dali here and another to Escher there.... All grist. Mainly, I tried to keep the text entertaining.

Claire. I too plan to read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when a book version appears. Had the same plans for Heart of Empire, but Bryan has inexplicably sent me the first three episodes. Spiffy drawing and colour, and a wonderful alternate-Imperial London; but a third of the way in, the storyline still seems to be in Boding Mode, as though the plot has yet to engage. • The Fuller 'Valentine' reminds me that I wanted to quote 'the perfect St. Valentine's Day card' mentioned recently in r.a.sf.f. On the front: 'I love you, I want you, I need you, it has to be YOU, YOU, YOU!!!' Inside: 'If I can't have you I want an owl or a dirigible.' • Old Langford's Proverbial Philosophy: Appreciation of Edward Gorey is the beginning of wisdom.

Tanya. The most recent Incredible Barking Book to arrive here is The Stargate Conspiracy ('Revealing the truth behind extraterrestrial contact, military intelligence and the mysteries of ancient Egypt') by Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince. I invited Hazel to take a look, and she immediately came across this: 'Archaeologists and Egyptologists vehemently denied that the ancients had tools such as lathes and drills on the apparently reasonable grounds that no remains of any such tool have ever been found.' Hazel is trying to reconcile this with having learned and repeatedly read the hieroglyph for 'drill' during her Egyptology course at Oxford.

Steve J. I very much liked the original b/w Luther Arkwright comics (murky, crosshatched and quite different in appearance from Heart of Empire, which with its simpler shapes and colours looks more The Tale of One Bad Rat). Watch out for the one-volume 'graphic novel', though: for some technical reason which Chris Bell once told me but I've since forgotten, the sheets are perfect-bound with a glue having approximately the adhesive power of spittle, and handfuls of pages are liable to erupt from the book if you subject it to any rough treatment such as opening it. • About Philip Pullman: The Ruby in the Smoke isn't the final volume of 'His Dark Materials' but opens an earlier trilogy set in Victorian London, including (says John Clute) horror and steampunk elements. Am hoping to read this one very soon. Meanwhile, a possibly unreliable mole tells me that the follow-up to The Subtle Knife may be delayed beyond the intended Autumn 99 publication, since PP was reportedly having trouble completing the book. Oh dear.

ColinandMitch. That evocative account of the Goody Bags from the Coventry Evening Telegraph van was, er, quite soul-stirring. It made me realize that the BSFA Tombola has been doing it all wrong: rather than let people see the terrible grot they might win, it should all be done up into tasteful and tantalizing BSFA Goody Bags. Only when you'd bought and opened one would you realize that you'd won two odd volumes of the Gor series, an Intervention beermat, several jirds, ten copies of the same issue of Ansible with authentic Florence Nightingale beer stains, the original of Ken Lake's most recent letter to Vector, and a ticket entitling you to be photographed by the BSFA's famous Camera of Dorian Gray (see Vector 206. 'My children cuddled me and said, "Poor Daddy ..."' – C.Priest).

Everyone Else – must rush! Vast pile of books to review.