1 July 2022 Time for another issue: Ansible 420 is here. In recent weeks I've been obsessively fiddling with various websites – the multifarious ansible.uk family, the unofficial TAFF site, and even the frequently forgotten Thog site – in hope of making things a bit neater. Never mind if you can't see any difference; getting rid of some of the more horrible "why did I ever do THAT?" background colours and menu structures was strangely cheering for me.
19 June 2022 "Skrapbook", a cut-and-paste article I put together for The Skeptic (UK cousin of The Skeptical Inquirer) back in 2005, recently appeared on the magazine website. I didn't like to link to it until some OCR garblings had been fixed – no, pi is not abbreviated as p and is not even approximately 31 over 7 – but the editor has now done the decent thing.
10 June 2022 I've been trying on and off for years to discourage use of my first ever email address firstname.lastname@example.org and its variant form email@example.com. Today I gave up and cancelled the nearly 30-year-old CIX account: those addresses will now bounce. You can still reach me through the contact form, and I'll reply with the now preferred address. Unless of course you try to sell me SEO services or hot Russian sex with wealthy Nigerian princes.
5 June 2022 Further excitement in the wake of the 1 June publications below: since the trade paperback of Bixelstrasse: The SF Fan Community of 1940s Los Angeles has sold quite a cheering number of copies (all proceeds to TAFF), Rob Hansen and I have agreed that there will sooner or later be a similar Ansible Editions paperback of 1957: The First UK Worldcon, to be sold on the same basis. Proof copies are now awaited. There's been a minor upheaval at the little-known site davidlangford.co.uk, long used for announcements (with masthead artwork) of new issues of Ansible. This was a WordPress blog bundled as a freebie with my web hosting package, which grew increasingly cranky and senile over the years – for example demanding that for mysterious security reasons I must delete unused WordPress visual "themes" which the software had installed without being asked to and which it faithfully reinstalled whenever I deleted them. The last straw came this month when trying to create a new post failed with a PHP error (presumably WordPress was too busy reinstalling unwanted themes to update itself to comply with the latest PHP rules). I deleted the blog and substituted a little script that automagically provides Ansible links and artwork for any year; that is, pretty much what the site used to show, minus WordPress clutter and now going all the way back to Ansible 1 in 1979. Thus I waste my days....
5 May 2022 Technobabble alert: I finally found time to investigate the tiresome "fuzzy logic" URL matching at the Ansible site. If someone tries to get to the nonexistent issue 500 (which if it ever happens will be a500.html), I want the server to show the 404 error page – not silently redirect to its best guess of a50.html. This was particularly tiresome when smartarse readers (a) entered the easily predictable URL of the not-yet-posted next issue in hope of a sneak preview; (b) got redirected to some weird guess at what they might have mistyped, as it might be 148 for 418; (c) when the real issue appeared, still saw the guesstimate instead because it was helpfully cached in their web browser; (d) emailed me to complain that the perfectly good home-page link to the new issue didn't work. Anyway ... it turns out that my web hosting service likes to set the default server option "MultiViews" (producing this behaviour) with no visible way to turn it off; which can however be done with an extra line in the .htaccess file. At last!
29 April 2022 A little early rather than (owing to the weekend and UK bank holiday) late, it's time for Ansible 418. Or Ansible 406, as its masthead said until embarrassingly late in the day: I'd copied the May 2021 header and updated the year only....
13 April 2022 For a variety of reasons I won't be at the coming UK Eastercon, Reclamation. Even before lockdown I had found myself enjoying conventions less and less owing to ever-worsening hearing (added to which, both my NHS hearing aids have died during the long closure of the local audiology service centre), while with Covid infections rising yet again I still don't care to mingle with crowds. Best wishes to all Eastercon attendees: I've laid in ample supplies of vintage Co-Op cider and from time to time will raise a glass. Meanwhile, there's Ansible newsgathering and SF Encyclopedia maintenance to keep me occupied, and Rob Hansen has started work on another monumental fanhistorical ebook....
1 January 2022 Another year, but not (just yet) another Ansible. Here is the latest ebook addition to the Little Free Library at the TAFF site: Ah! Sweet Laney! The Writings of a Great Big Man by Francis Towner Laney.
21 December 2021 Merry Solstice to everyone! Hazel is putting up decorations and I'm posting the promised link to my miserable Xmas-card substitute Cloud Chamber 165. Of late I've been beset by pangrams. A recent Inquisitor crossword revolved around Mark Dunn's 2001 novel Ella Minnow Pea (fortunately I have a copy), whose plot requires the finding of a sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet and improves on the traditional THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG by being shorter yet still comprehensible. The book's answer is the long-known but less famous PACK MY BOX WITH FIVE DOZEN LIQUOR JUGS. Just two weeks later, another Inquisitor setter required us to discover and write in a "perfect" pangram of exactly 26 letters: CWM FJORD BANK GLYPHS VEXT QUIZ. "Carvings on the side of a valley inlet annoyed an eccentric", according to the official explanation of that puzzle in last Saturday's i. Whose easier general knowledge crossword included PANGRAM as an answer which Hazel pointed out to me. "Blimey," I said, since I'm comfort-rereading Augustus de Morgan's A Budget of Paradoxes (1872, revised 1915, mostly about circle-squarers and other mathematical cranks) and had just reached the page in Volume 1 where de Morgan trades pangrams with a friend, decides it's necessary to use I for J and omit V altogether (as presumably covered by W), and comes up with I, QUARTZ PYX, WHO FLING MUCK BEDS. The fickle finger of fate, insecurely attached to the long arm of coincidence, had struck again.
7 November 2021 Today I discovered something I'd have kept back for Ansible if not for the December deadline involved. The National Library of New Zealand quietly announced in July that it's giving a huge tranche of discarded books from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive, which will digitize them all and put them online. In October it was revealed equally quietly that authors who'd rather not be pirated have until 1 December to opt out. See here. I downloaded the immense spreadsheet of 428,232 titles and found only one by me. But 46 by or edited by Robert Silverberg; 24 by Michael Moorcock; several by Chris Priest; many more still-in-copyright titles. Author friends may want to check for their names. Later, 29 November: plans for the donation, now given as 600,000 titles, have been put on hold.
3 November 2021 Covid booster shots today at the local pharmacy: Pfizer this time. Perhaps my arm felt a little bit sorer that night than after the previous AstraZenecas, but nothing alarming happened.
21 September 2021 Here's a belated review of All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions. Also, Keith Freeman points out that The Leaky Establishment is cited in the comments to this recent story at The Register.
24 August 2021 An unexpected bookplate discovery on the front endpaper of a volume in my collection (The Story of Manon Lescaut, 1731; translated by Helen Waddell for the New York Heritage Press, 1935):
1 August 2021 An experiment: I placed a tiny classified ad for Ansible Editions in Private Eye #1550 (25 June - 8 July). No detectable blip in sales or even shows of interest, so I probably won't try this again.
25 June 2021 At last I've disposed of that long run of complimentary copies of SFX magazine, after going through the whole lot and (for the sake of future bibliographers) noting all the title changes they made to my long-running column there. More than I remembered. In the collections – The SEX Column and Other Misprints, Starcombing and All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions – I naturally used my original titles, thus causing fearful confusion at the Internet SF Database.... Do I regret not having that regular soapbox for (almost) anything I cared to write? Not really, although I could have had some fun with the true and terrible history of the online SF Encyclopedia following the Gollancz announcement that they will be pulling the plug on this noble enterprise in October 2021. Instead – in between the agonies of constructing a replacement website where the SFE show will go on – I've written about all this for the next issue of William Breiding's fanzine Portable Storage.