Who is this David Langford anyway? A little-known British freelance writer living in Reading, England, who has won inexplicably many science fiction awards and publishes an sf newsletter called Ansible. Hence the Langford web site which tells you more than you could possibly wish to know about me is at ansible.uk.
Why Ansible, and where is it? The name is lifted from a faster-than-light communications gadget which was described in Ursula K. Le Guin's sf novels as far back as the 1960s, and later pinched by Orson Scott Card and others (notably Vernor Vinge and Elizabeth Moon) for their sf. Current and back issues of Ansible itself live at news.ansible.uk, and several questions about submissions and listing policy are answered on the FAQ page there. About my tiny software company Ansible Information, and the even more obscure publishing outfit Ansible E-ditions, the less said the better.
Where does this mysterious freelance writing actually appear? At present, there are a handful of regular and irregular Langford magazine columns, most frequently for the magazines SFX and Interzone, with occasional sallies into Fortean Times and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I also review books for SFX, the Sunday Telegraph magazine and, rarely, New Scientist. Since about 2005 I've been writing for and editing The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, which launched online in October 2011.
Is there a Langford bibliography? Oh all right, since you insist ... but for the sake of sanity let's deport it to another page and separate the books, the short stories, the miscellaneous non-fiction (including magazine columns) and the fanzines. Also, the Immodesty Page goes into embarrassing detail about awards.
Is there anything that people do frequently ask you? The following questions actually arise from time to time ...
- Q. Can I send you a review copy of this book?
If you're the author and you ask me this in person, I'm all too likely to make discouraging noises. I hate to raise hopes or add to a starving creator's postal bill when the chances of a review are low: see further Q&A. If you must, you are welcome to send the book to me at 94 London Road, Reading, RG1 5AU; but the only promise I make is that books received – physical, printed books – will all be listed on the Ansible Books Received page. Nagging by email about the importance of reviewing your book is apt to be counterproductive.
- Q. Will you review the book?
A. Probably not, alas. I normally have a huge backlog of review copies that ought to be read or at least triaged but haven't been. In my current gig with the Sunday Telegraph magazine, I was allotted a ridiculously tiny space every six weeks or so in which to cover just five titles from the entire recent flood of new sf and fantasy (I've cautiously put that in the past tense since the magazine's "Hot Type" genre review slot has been on hold for many months owing to a "temporary" redesign). Review commissions from SFX magazine are now extremely infrequent; here the choice of book is the editor's, not mine. My own sf newsletter Ansible doesn't run reviews, and the essential requirement for my occasional "Curiosities" appearances in F&SF is that books discussed must be decades old and more or less forgotten.
- Q. Will you review my ebook?
A. Sorry, no. Besides all the above, I dislike reading long texts on screen (unless very well paid for the trouble, as in my past editorial work for Terry Pratchett) and have become even more reluctant to do this since difficulties following eye surgery in 2012. Ebooks are no longer listed on the Ansible Books Received page: this is sheer self-defence, since electrons are so cheap that I could spend hours every day logging a flood of ebooks received. Incidentally, SFX magazine has never commissioned an ebook review from me.
- Q. Will you review my audiobook or podcast?
A. Definitely not. Chronic hearing problems.
- Q. Are you the David Langford who used to write sf/fantasy reviews for White Dwarf in the 80s when it was occasionally quite good?
A. Yes. 68 "Critical Mass" review columns from 1983 to 1988 ... later continued as "Critical Hits" in GM (17 columns, 1988-1990) and "Critical Mass" again in GMI (15 columns, 1990-1991). A final GMI column – lost when the magazine folded, but included in my own Critical Assembly II – brings the total to 101. The whole lot appeared in one volume, with additional notes and an index, as The Complete Critical Assembly (2001). Buy copies for all your friends.
- Q. Where can I get hold of your rant about the awfulness of Battlefield Earth?
A. Buy The Silence of the Langford from NESFA Press or a UK import dealer: the first essay rants about several books of the early 1980s, including the execrable Battlefield Earth. No, I haven't seen the film.
- Q. Can I have a short biographical paragraph about your wonderfulness?
A. One version that's appeared a few times goes like this: "Born 10 April 1953 in Newport, Gwent, South Wales. Studied at Newport High School and (1971-4) Brasenose College, Oxford. BA (Hons) in Physics 1974, MA 1978. Weapons physicist at Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Aldermaston, Berkshire, from 1975 to 1980. Freelance author, editor and consultant ever since-main fields: science, technology, science fiction (both fiction and criticism), humour, small-system computing and futurology. Sideline in software marketing/consultancy (as Ansible Information, in partnership with fellow author Christopher Priest) since 1985. Married since 12 June 1976 to Hazel Langford – no children but some 30,000 books. Most work published under own name; one admitted pseudonym, William Robert Loosley. Hobbies include real beer, antique hearing aids and the destruction of human civilization as we know it today."
- Q. Is it possible to buy officially out-of-print Langford books?
A. Yes, I have stocks of a few, as detailed in this site's "For Sale" list.
- Q. Are you related to (a) Bonnie Langford? (b) Jon Langford of The Mekons? (c) Jon Langford of The Three Johns? (d) Jon Langford of The Waco Brothers? (e) Jon Langford of the Canadian band The Sadies? (f) Jon Langford who now lives in Chicago and keeps exhibiting his strange paintings and etchings?
A. No to (a). The rest are all my little brother.
- Q. Gosh, the famous Jon Langford! Is he on line?
A. Try here, or his MySpace pages here and here . Also artwork samples here;
- Q. How many Hugo awards do you actually have?
A. Twenty-nine. That's twenty-one as Best Fanwriter, five for Ansible as Best Fanzine, one for Ansible as Best Semiprozine, one for Best Short Story ("Different Kinds of Darkness", January 2000 F&SF) and a shared win for Best Related Book (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, launched 2011). If I really wanted to stretch it, I could cheekily claim another 0.08 for my share in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, a winner as Best Related Book. (More details, and even some photos, elsewhere.) And yes, I still find it a bit alarming.
- Q. How do I subscribe to Ansible by e-mail?
A. Just step this way. There is no charge, and you get no junk e-mail: just the monthly Ansible plus very rare additional news announcements. The page also links to PDA download and RSS feed options.
- Q. Why do you never use my submissions about X or Y or Z in Ansible?
A. There are some notes on policy in the Ansible FAQ. As a general rule, Ansible doesn't run fiction, reviews, interviews, book acquisition/publication announcements, ads, or listings of conventions outside the British Isles (Eurocons and World SF Conventions are exceptions). However, I am now maintaining an on-line page of international convention links for events with their own websites – submissions and updates welcome.