15 January 2018 The weekend just past was full of struggles with technology. None of the Langford websites had ever been set up for secure access (https rather than http), but Google supposedly favours secure sites in its rankings, and my webspace provider 1&1 had long been dangling the offer of a free security certificate for one domain.... So I tried it at taff.org.uk, where everything was fine after only minor tinkering (e.g. a site search option that had an http link to Google needed to be changed to https to avoid browser warnings). This tempted me to move into more complicated territory by investing in a "wildcard" certificate to cover not only ansible.uk but its various subdomains at ae.ansible.uk, news.ansible.uk, and so on. At first all seemed well – though with rather more tinkering required – but hubris was clobbered by nemesis when an Ansible reader reported hideous security-related error messages. After the usual routine panic, I realized that he was still using the old news.ansible.co.uk link, which for years had quietly redirected to news.ansible.uk but not any more. A nasty surprise to find that a simple "301 redirect" from a non-secure to a secure site fails in spectacular fashion ... until replaced by something far more complicated found via digilent online research. I fixed the problem eventually, though not before trying to throw myself on the mercy of webspace technical support and discovering that since I'd last used this feature all support options except via telephone had been removed. The caring message of 1&1 to disabled customers is: "If you're deaf, sod off."
After dealing with all that and having a fairly stiff drink, I felt strong enough to tackle the ongoing problem with Hazel's elderly computer, where Excel spreadsheets (of which her family history research uses a vast number) consistently took 45 seconds to close. That is, they each saved more or less instantly but there was then a long hourglass-cursor delay before anything else could be done – such as saving and closing the next spreadsheet, and then the next, and the next.... After removing a couple of unnecessary background tasks without visible effect, I eventually found the culprit was Microsoft Outlook, a vile program which Hazel has never knowingly used. But it secretly watches over MS Office applications, including Excel, and by default records all file saves (among other data) to a "journal" file. This thing had grown over the years to seven megabytes. I can't imagine what massive inefficiency is required for Outlook to take 45 seconds to add an entry to a 7Mb database ... but the good news is that after I disabled Outlook's "journal" options and just for luck deleted the .pst (Personal STorage) file where all this rubbish had accumulated, Hazel's computer now saves and closes spreadsheets in a fraction of a second. Just another of the eight million stories in the naked city.
1 January 2018 Happy New Year! Today there is no new Ansible because the printers are closed for the bank holiday – I hope to publish tomorrow. Instead, New Year's Day sees two momentous changes to the free ebooks page at the TAFF site. First, by popular demand of a few persistent fans, all titles are now available in PDF format (a quick-and-dirty conversion rather than proper digital typesetting, I'm afraid). Even more first, True Rat: The Beast of Leroy Kettle, edited as usual by Rob Hansen, collects the greatest hits from Roy Kettle's peak fanwriting years in the 1970s and early 1980s.
23 December 2017 A small treat for those who bought the Langford ebook Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews 1976-2017. This has now been expanded with a few more 2017 articles, boosting the word count from 262,000 to 264,500. Contents list and all indexes updated to match. You can download the Improved Version using the same login details as before.
18 December 2017 With Christmas looming it seems time to update the page of links to my F&SF "Curiosities" pieces with the recently published one on Max Beerbohm's A Christmas Garland – plus another, written this year, that the magazine rejected.
1 December 2017 As per the usual routine: here's Ansible 365, the December issue, and two more free ebooks at the TAFF site. Click through to read all about The Frank Arnold Papers (ed. Rob Hansen, introduction by Mike Moorcock) and The Complete Skyrack (Ron Bennett's 1960s UK fan newsletter). Has it really been a whole month since my last note here? Much of the time was spent panicking over SF Encyclopedia website problems first noticed on 28 October, traced to a 25 October software "upgrade" at the Hachette web servers, analysed and agonized about for several weeks, and eventually fixed by Hachette IT in late November. With this stress removed, I must have momentarily allowed my immune system to relax and duly went down with a foul cold. So it goes.
1 November 2017 Today's releases: Ansible 364 and two more free ebooks at the TAFF site. Graham Charnock's Running Amok in the Fun Factory brings together his favourite UK convention reports by various hands, while fan historian Rob Hansen has collected William F. (Bill) Temple's 1938-1960 humorous fanzine writing as Temple at the Bar.
2 October 2017 Who could have expected such an astonishing development as the appearance of Ansible 363? Buried deep in its innards is the news that the free ebooks page now includes Can't Get Off the Island, the collection of Greg Pickersgill's fanwriting produced by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer for the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon.
1 September 2017 Ansible 362 is published today and accompanied by a memorial supplement for the late great Brian Aldiss (1925-2017). A printable PDF version of the latter has since been posted as Ansible 362½
10 August 2017 As already announced in Ansible 361 (though not very prominently) and on Facebook, I'm offering copies of my first solo book War in 2080: The Future of Military Technology (1979) for the cost of small-parcel postage within the UK (only). Signed hardback first edition in dust jacket, with errata sheet. Yes, of course this is dated, but I hope it's still fun; there are many science fiction references for the SF fans. See button below, borrowed from the PayPal donations page: the suggested amount is £3.50 to allow for PayPal's commission but you're welcome to bump it up a bit if feeling madly generous.
1 August 2017 Regular readers will have been expecting Ansible 361, but nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! I'm sorry, I'll read that again: also out today is the ebook of my and Chris Morgan's Facts & Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions – revised and significantly expanded from its 1981 print incarnation.
26 July 2017 Don't tell John Clute I said so, but SF Encyclopedia maintenance involves an awful lot of tedious drudge-work. Only once in a while do I find the time and inspiration for a new article that's actually fun to write, recent examples being the long theme entry for Swearing and the shorter author/artist piece on David Malki ! of Wondermark fame. Meanwhile, Hazel was charmed by this Underground-style map of Britain's Roman roads, while I came across a link to a forgotten Langford interview conducted by someone from the British Computer Society and hosted on their site.
30 June 2017 Suddenly it's the July issue of Ansible (a day early for reasons too tedious for the puny human intellect to comprehend), with the usual departments and, yet again, announcements of still more additions to the TAFF Free Ebooks page.
2 June 2017 Every time I release an ebook there's a storm of two or three complaints, usually from the same people, deploring these new-fangled electrons and asking for a print edition. Which would mean a great deal more work (especially for the new Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews with its vast size and need for multiple indexes, which are a huge pain to recreate for a POD document). If only fifty or a hundred people were clamouring in earnest for a "real book", that would sway me; but last time I catered for the usual two or three, the resulting two or three – all right, half a dozen – sales emphatically did not justify the time and effort. Much of the Langford backlist that I've been reissuing in ebook form is still available in print, as listed with links on this page. While checking those links I found that one edition has acquired a wholly unfamiliar blurb: This new collection of essays, commissioned from a range of scholars across the world, takes as its theme the reception of Rome's greatest poet in a time of profound cultural change. Amid the rise of Christianity, the changing status of the city of Rome, and the emergence of new governing classes, Vergil remained a bedrock of Roman education and identity. This volume considers the different ways in which Vergil was read, understood and appropriated; by poets, commentators, Church fathers, orators and historians. The introduction outlines the cultural and historical contexts. Twelve chapters dedicated to individual writers or genres, and the contributors make use of a wide range of approaches from contemporary reception theory. An epilogue concludes the volume. What a scholar I was in those days! I mean, what a range of scholars. Now I feel the urge to daringly conclude a volume with an epilogue.
1 June 2017 It's publication day for Ansible 359, which in turn announces the release of Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews and several of those planned additions to the TAFF Free Ebooks page (see previous post).
21-31 May 2017 I thought my submission of Rob Hansen's THEN to the "fake reviews for charity" initiative at Theaker's Quarterly had missed the deadline and wouldn't be reviewed, but Rob just spotted it here. That led me to discover the also previously unnoticed review of All Good Things, in which that nice Mr Theaker has an old tormentor at his mercy yet magnanimously turns the other cheek. I am all abashed. During a long post-Eastercon bout of vague unwellness and lack of energy (I really must stop going to these things), I somehow lapsed again into the obsessive making of ebooks. Doing four simultaneously is probably an error: (1) Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews assembles a vast mass of reviews considered too short for inclusion in my more pretentious nonfiction collections, plus various brief bookish squibs, spoofs, review roundup columns and obituaries. The current tally is 650+ items covering over 800 books, all totting up to 262,000 words. (2) Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions, the ebook of my and Chris Morgan's 1981 title – slightly revised to remove glaring embarrassments and to add at least one bonus item in each chapter. (3) Beachcombings (tentative title), still very much a work in progress, a sort of follow-up to The Silence of the Langford with a similar mix of fannish and generally light-hearted (though of course frighteningly authoritative) professional material, convention speeches, etc. (4) The TAFF Anthology, again a tentative title, began as a simple scheme to assemble all the fragments of unfinished Trans-Atlantic Fun Fund trip reports hosted at the TAFF site. Complications included the discoveries that some old material still wasn't on the site, that at least one long-incomplete report is regarded by its author as a work actively in progress, and that deciding on a cut-off date (so as not to put undue pressure on very recent TAFF winners) has its own difficulties. The digital text currently stands at 95,000 words, including some excellent writing, but work has temporarily stalled while waiting for permissions and further needed pieces. This will be coming sooner or later to the TAFF Free Ebooks page, where the latest additions are Fanorama (1950s/1960s columns first collected 1998 and long out of print) and The Harp at Chicon (1952) by Walt Willis, The Goon Omnibus (1950s/1960s fan humour first collected 1993 and long out of print) by John Berry, and the one I forgot to list above as (5) – Ansible Second Series 1991-2000. The last, running to 360,000 words, continues from Ansible First Series 1979-1987 (a 300,000-worder which was already on the TAFF page) with issues 51-161 of the infamous newsletter. I'll need a long rest before embarking on the ebook which logically must follow, Ansible Second Series 2001-2010....
1 May 2017 I don't mind working on UK bank holidays but the Ansible printers think differently; so I hope to publish the May issue tomorrow. Meanwhile, let it be known that Rob Hansen's THEN has just won the 2017 Fanzine Activity Achievement Award in the category of Best Special Issue. Congratulations, Rob!
14 April 2017 Now I'm off to Birmingham for the UK national Eastercon, which this year is nameless and thus called Innominate. Here's the programme schedule page. I make only two official appearances: at the NewCon Press launch, 6:30-7:30pm Friday (today) and, representing Rob Hansen of THEN fame, the BSFA Awards ceremony (5:30-7pm Saturday) [alas, Rob didn't win but we all love Geoff Ryman, who did]. Meanwhile, here's a politically inflammatory cartoon from the traditional Judy Horacek birthday card sent to me by Yvonne Rousseau.
10 April 2017 A birthday lunch treat in a local canalside pub whose gents' toilet has a forward-thinking notice:
30 March 2017 A little earlier than expected, here's Ansible 357. Also earlier than expected was my first fan letter (and a very nice one too) on All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions. Although this isn't officially published until 21 April, NewCon Press is already filling orders for the trade paperback edition. The limited-edition hardbacks will have to wait until I've signed them all at Eastercon.
March 2017 Time to book my rail ticket to the
UK Eastercon. The NewCon
Press book launch for All Good
Things: The Last SFX Visions is currently expected to be at
27 February 2017 My promised nonfiction collection All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions, officially published by NewCon Press/Steel Quill on 21 April 2017, will indeed be launched at Eastercon and is already available for pre-order at the NewCon Press website. The cover is by regular column illustrator Andy Watt, from the SFX 250 instalment, and many more of Andy's cartoons are to be reprinted in the book. Besides the trade paperback with black-and-white interior art, there is to be a super luxury hardback with the illustrations in full colour.
19 February 2017 The BSFA Awards shortlist has been released and (wearing my Ansible Editions hat) I am of course delighted that Rob Hansen's THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980 appears in the nonfiction category.
17 February 2017 My final collection of Langford columns from SFX magazine is to be launched at Eastercon as a title in the Steel Quill nonfiction imprint of Ian Whates's NewCon Press. Besides the 2009-2016 columns it contains reviews and criticism published elsewhere in the same period, bringing the total to 100 pieces plus a new introduction.
1 February 2017 Despite being so short, February is a bonus month with two issues of Ansible. The usual coverage appears in Ansible 355 and – reviving the long-lost tradition of extra "half issues" – Ansible 355½ is devoted to Tom Shippey's funeral tribute to Peter Weston.
11 January 2017 January freebie at Ansible Editions: the first 48pp of Rob Hansen's history of UK fandom (including introductions and the entire 1930s section) can be downloaded without charge until the end of the month. Why, yes, this is indeed a naked attempt to influence BSFA Award voters in their choices for the nonfiction shortlist.
7 January 2017 Good news for Ansible Editions: Rob Hansen is on the longlist for the nonfiction category of the BSFA Awards with his monumental tome THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980.
1 January 2017 Happy New Year to all. The photo shows a mystical cosmic alignment (possibly marking the architect's birthday) whereby in late December the sun briefly shines through an upstairs window, slants through the full depth of the house and lights up our front door from inside. As Erich von Däniken was wont to say, "This proves it!"
Look On My Works, Ye Mighty
SF Encyclopedia All Book Pages All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions *The Complete Critical Assembly *Crosstalk: Interviews Conducted by David Langford *Different Kinds of Darkness *Don't Try This at Home: Selected Convention Reports *He Do the Time Police in Different Voices *The Leaky Establishment *The Limbo Files *The SEX Column and Other Misprints *Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews *The Silence of the Langford *The Space Eater *Starcombing *Up Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002
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