December 23, 2005
Christmas is looming and sf news seems thin on the ground.
Hunting through Thog's files for some seasonally appropriate
quotation, I fear I could find only this: 'Vienna, in that
perfunctory way of hers, has sighed and spread her legs to be
shagged by the winter solstice.' (Adrian Mathews, Vienna Blood,
As Others See First Fandom. 'Science fiction, or sci-fi
as it became known (the new phrase purportedly coined by Forrest
Ackerman himself), swept the world, no longer the diversion of a
quixotic (or risible) few.' (George Pendle, Strange Angel,
R.I.P. Kenneth Bulmer (1921-2005), old-time UK
fan and prolific
author, died fifteen minutes after midnight on 16 December.
He was 84, and had spent several increasingly unhappy years in a
Tunbridge Wells nursing home after suffering a stroke just before
Easter 1997. Ken loomed large in the Langford map of sf as the
guest of honour at my first convention, Novacon 1973; the first
editor to buy one of my stories (for New Writings in SF,
the original anthology series he took over after its founding
editor John Carnell died in 1972); one of the most genial and
encouraging presences at the UK Milford workshops; and the first
TAFF winner actually to make the trip, in 1955. The fan-published
instalments of his TAFF
report finally appeared in one volume as TAFF Tales
(1998); his own fanzines included Star Parade (1941) and
Steam (1954-1959). Besides much sf and fantasy under his
own name, Ken wrote novels and novelizations in many genres -- his
personal favourite being the 'Fox' series of Hornbloweresque naval
adventures, as by Adam Hardy. His longest-running success was the
'Dray Prescot' or
sequence of science fantasies in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs,
written under the pseudonyms Alan Burt Akers and, later, Dray
Prescot. Although Ken lost his US publisher (DAW Books) after #38
in this series, it continued in German translation until #53 in
1998. His total output was enormous; Steve Holland calculates that
the just-published The Steel Claw: The Invisible Man
(collecting his 3-issue stint on a Valiant comic strip in
1962-3) is his 189th book.
Robert F. Newmyer (1956-2005), independent film producer
whose credits include the Christmas fantasy The Santa Clause
(1994) and its two sequels, died on 12 December; he was 49.
Greg Pickersgill also remembers Ken Bulmer: 'HKB was
definitely a Right Guy, both as a fan and as a writer who produced
some work of genuine charm that was actually memorable, which is a
damned sight more than can be said of very many other authors.
He was a
fan back in the days when it was a Proud and Lonely Thing, with a
small but entertaining and readable bundle of fanwriting and
fanzines to his name, including a real issue of Nirvana in
1949, a fanzine that had become the stuff of legend even before a
stencil was cut. He never did much fanwriting after the 1950s, but
he did from time to time show up in such as Peter Weston's Zenith/Speculation,
where he often had something to say that was quite outside what
might have been expected from a self-confessed hack writer. He may
have written to order and by the length, but he actually knew a
lot about what makes fiction work.
slightly surprised, thinking about him now, at how much of his
stuff sticks in my mind, especially from my earlier days of sf
reading. Some of it was just memorable because it was new to me,
like the space war stories in New Worlds of the early 60s,
but there's also really good stuff that's worth going back to --
some fine little pieces in Science Fantasy, for example,
including a real favourite in "Strange Highways" (S-F
February 1961). Also in the frame for me is The Demons,
one of the first sf novels I ever read, way back in about 1965,
which is memorable for more than just the bizarrely rodentlike
photo of Ken on the back cover of the Compact edition.
there's the almost forgotten, except by me and Rog Peyton, short
novel The Golden Age, published under the pseudonym Rupert
Clinton in New Worlds in 1961 -- a really effective
alternate worlds story that certainly deserved the book
publication it never ever got.
It's a real shame that Ken sort of became the forgotten man of
British sf and fandom. He really was a good all-rounder -- not
fantastically brilliant at any or everything, but a lot better
than most. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but I'd be
bloody happy if someone were to say that about me, and I think
Ken, a realistic guy, would have been delighted by the idea.
also, beyond all the above, a thoroughly decent fellow, and I wish
I had had more sense and time to get to know him better when I had
the chance. Too young and stupid though.'
Miscellany. The Economist discovers
More Guardian obits:
mutant ape army.
Small Press. The Runcible column traditionally doesn't
run book announcements, but just this once ... Roger Robinson's
Beccon Publications has produced Black Dust & Other Tales
Of Interrupted Childhood by Graham Joyce (with contributions
from Jeff VanderMeer, Jeffrey Ford and Mark Chadbourn): 62pp, £24.95
limited hardback, £9.95 paperback (plus P&P, £1.50
or £1). Everybody involved has worked for nothing, and all
proceeds will help 'establish a bursary for students at the
Nqabakazulu School, near Durban in South Africa'. Order enquiries
to books at thetalkingdead dot fsnet dot co dot uk.
Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Complex Mapping.
'However erroneous the theory upon which the cartographers evolved
their maps, mine were not entirely useless; though they required
considerable mental mathematical gymnastics to translate them into
usable information ... the actual and the apparent measurements of
distance can be reconciled by multiplying each by the square root
of minus one!' (Edgar Rice Burroughs, Escape on Venus,
Langford is an author and a gentleman. His newsletter,
is the essential SF-insider sourcebook of wit and incongruity. His
most recent books are The
SEX Column and other misprints, collecting ten years of
columns and essays for SFX magazine; Different
Kinds of Darkness, a new short-story collection of
horror, SF, and fantasy; Up
Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002,
100 pieces of Langfordian genre commentary; and He
Do the Time Police in Different Voices, a short-story
collection that brings together all of Dave's SF parodies and
pastiches. (This is a scary thought. Are you ready to laugh that
Dave lives in Reading, England with his wife Hazel, 25,000
books, and a couple of dozen Hugo awards. He continues to add
books and Hugos.