31 December 2019 Looking back from the end of 2019, what have I been doing? Once again the SF Encyclopedia is a whole herd of elephants in the room. From the Statistics page it appears that I formatted, spell-checked and oversaw the upload of 186,320 words including 315 new entries; some 26,000 of those words were my own. As usual I published twelve crowded issues of Ansible and six "Ansible Link" news digests for the bimonthly Interzone. Over at Ansible Editions, I'm particularly proud of having edited and published New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek; also in preparation is a slim volume containing two substantial but never before collected Brian Aldiss essays from the mid-1960s, with a new introduction kindly contributed by Chris Priest. The free ebooks library at the TAFF site saw twenty new titles in 2019: three were PDFs already prepared by other hands, but the other seventeen (totalling well over 1.2 million words) each had to be compiled into ebook form by my own laborious efforts. Further professional appearances this year were confined to a "Curiosities" piece in F&SF, which is embarrassing; but my backlist continues to earn royalties from Wildside Press, plus a small but gratifying trickle of ebook sales via Ansible Editions.
Of course Martin Hoare's death in July has – even more than the nightmare of UK politics – cast a shadow over the later months of 2019. Particularly in the post-Christmas period when we always got together to drink champagne followed by G&T, and exchange various deeply silly gifts. Sometimes it's the little things that hurt most.
25 December 2019 The legendary fan writer Walt Willis's centenary year is nearly over (he was born in October 1919). As a Christmas treat today, there are two more free ebooks of his work at the TAFF site: The Willis Papers (1961), showcasing his first 11 years of fanzine writing, and Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator (1991) with James White, sequel to The Enchanted Duplicator (1954). This link shows all the available ebooks in reverse order of release, with the latest appearing first.
23 December 2019 Another cheapskate e-card! Photo of Christchurch footbridge (over the Thames between Reading and Caversham) by Hazel; mucked around with by me under her supervision.
2 December 2019 Ansible 389 wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and comes with an unseasonal gift: the announcement of yet another free ebook of olde-worlde fannish writing.
29 August 2019 My old (indeed, oldest) friend Martin Hoare's funeral took place today at Reading Crematorium in Caversham, where the chapel was very crowded indeed. His Tardis coffin was much admired. By his own request the service began with Cwm Rhondda and ended with Always Look on the Bright Side. In lieu of flowers, friends were asked to donate to his favourite cause the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Memory Giving page closes on 23 September).
8 August 2019 When Private Eye made a big fuss about Boris Johnson's remarkable appearance in an SF novel, some fourteen years after I'd written about all this in SFX magazine, I felt I had to tell them – but didn't expect my email to appear only slightly edited in the next issue:
1 July 2019 Yes, I know, these posts are getting dreadfully repetitive. Today saw the release of Ansible 384, which in turn announces still more free ebooks: The Complete Patchin Review edited by Charles Platt; The Meadows of Fantasy by Archie Mercer; and The Complete Cheap Truth edited by "Vincent Omniaveritas" (Bruce Sterling).
1 May 2019 Mayday! Mayday! Civilization is under attack by a rogue copy of Ansible 382! In other news, New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek (see below) is now available in ebook form, and Terry Carr's 1986 fanwriting collection Fandom Harvest is the latest addition to the free ebooks at the TAFF site.
5 March 2019 Honesty in advertising (thanks to Pat Cadigan for this).
1 March 2019 What worse way to mark St David's Day than by publishing Ansible 380? Later: I had to update the online web page and PDF because next day the BSFA with perfect timing revealed that their March meeting would be a week earlier than announced.
21 December 2018 Merry Solstice, everyone! As an e-card for friends, Hazel instructed me to add a touch of festive tat to her photo of Reading old (the Abbey ruins) and new (the Blade building that can be seen from bloody everywhere).
19 December 2018 Having spent a lot of time creating the SF Encyclopedia Picture Gallery (where, to be fair, Roger Robinson now does most of the uploading) and the Josh Kirby Gallery in memory of Josh, I've been working on a Langford Gallery which ultimately should display all my published book covers, including anthologies containing Langford stories, books with Langford introductions, and a mass of reprints and translations. It didn't take long to push this to today's total of 130 covers, but there's a lot more stuff on dusty shelves and in forgotten cupboards....
30 November 2018 Not only another one-day-early issue, Ansible 377, but my best wishes for an impending festive season which may optionally be blighted by another free ebook release: Don't Try This at Home: Selected Convention Reports by (just between ourselves) me. 78,000 words of esoterica, gossip, bad taste and hangovers!
23 August 2018 Some links. Michael Scott Rohan memorial site (reminiscences solicited); SF Encyclopedia Worldcon News with Hugos and other awards; "The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is the Best Place on the Internet" (blush).
1 August 2018 The hot weather made Ansible 373 more tiresome than usual to produce, but I had a moment's sense of wonder when for the first time I arrived at Kall Kwik to find the paper copies already printed and waiting. Traditionally I carry white laser-printer masters to the copy shop; in July I also took a PDF version on memory stick, which was received with enthusiasm; this time, as suggested, I emailed the PDF just before setting out for the town centre. A side effect of the new regime is that the latest offerings at the Ansible PDF download page are high-quality printable documents, not the jaggy bitmap scans of old.
2 July 2018 Argh. Ansible 372, just out, was a huge pain to produce because the ancient laser printer died a couple of days ago and I couldn't find another that was obsolete enough to be compatible with the Ansible production software. So the whole operation had to be moved to a different platform. My brain hurts. Huge thanks to Steve Davies of Plokta cabal fame for donating an old laser printer that couldn't substitute directly for the really old one that failed, but can print lovely white masters (still expected by two of Ansible's Hero Distributors) from the PDF version.
23 May 2018 Without comment, a photo by Gurf Morlix posted on Facebook by brother Jon.
10 May 2018 This 2018 reissue of a 1975 Jack Vance novel is particularly dear to my heart because it includes a new introduction by me.
4 May 2018 Oops. Once again I forgot to link to the new Ansible on publication day (1 May). Over at the SF Encyclopedia, I recently had some fun writing an entry on Grey Goo, and yesterday – having all too many other things to do – was mysteriously impelled to create the image below.
11 April 2018 Yesterday I was distracted by having a birthday. Slight surprise that this unmomentous occasion was noticed by Steven H Silver at Black Gate and by History of Wales on Facebook. Brother Jon managed to take a day off his strenuous UK performance tour for a traditional lunch at Sweeney & Todd, and deployed famous artistic skills to draw a unique custom card while on the train to Reading:
27 March 2018 People are posting their Follycon (Eastercon 2018) schedules. Mine goes like this. Friday: stay in Reading, avoiding any Easter rail strike action and related travel stress. Saturday: various events including the ever-popular brunch and ciderklatsch near Cemetery Junction, Reading. Sunday: the intellectual workout day, with a big push at the Inquisitor crossword. Venue: 94 London Road, Reading. Monday: Easter bank holiday fun, probably involving outdoor activity in eastern Reading. Tuesday: the action shifts to KallKwik (printers) and Sweeney & Todd (pub venue for traditional envelope-stuffing lunch) in Reading town centre for publication of Ansible 369. With lots of hot Eastercon news, if anyone has sent it.
1 March 2018 Ansible 368 duly published, at least in print and via snailmail, but not immediately posted to the usual websites and email lists because our net connection had gone again. I've done what I can with my smartphone – all a bit like uploading a camel through the eye of a needle....
27 February 2018 Today, the famous LeVar Burton's reading of my short story "Different Kinds of Darkness" was released as part of his regular "LeVar Burton Reads" podcast series – here are links to his Stitcher and iTunes pages. It's free! This has been quite a thrill for me. For anyone looking for the original story, it's the title piece of my big collection Different Kinds of Darkness (print edition and ebook).
9 February 2018 Too many adventures here since the beginning of the month. Shortly after I'd dealt with the aftermath of Ansible 367, some time on Friday 2 February, we lost our internet access and didn't get it back until late Tuesday afternoon. I sneaked out a few apologetic emails via mobile phone, but otherwise there was general radio silence chez Langford for days. Hazel, despite a bad cold, struggled with Plusnet phone support. They admitted a problem at their end but the Monday fix "within four hours" failed to materialize. Presumably someone kicked the server on Tuesday, but not before subsequent support men had insisted on desperation measures like a factory reset of the router, which mucked up our in-house net (big networked backup drive, several computers and wireless access point all inaccessible). I've been doing repair work ever since. One printer remains intractable: Windows claims that it's unreachable by wireless yet strangely it's still happy to accept wireless scan requests and return scanned images via the wireless link.
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.
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
More about David Langford
Some people send photos of this sign ...
... but more prefer this one: