Spotlight on: David Langford, Editor and Writer
Why did you start publishing Ansible in the first place?
No special initiative or idealism, alas. Peter Roberts, editor of the 1970s British SF/fan newsletter Checkpoint, decided 100 issues were enough and instructed me to take over in 1979, with the old subscriber list but a new title which of course I stole from Ursula Le Guin. If only I’d had the sense to stop at 100. Number 287 is looming as I write…
How has the fanzine field changed since you began Ansible in the ’70s? Are things better, worse, or just different?
Better in that online publishing can reach a wide audience without huge printing and postage costs, while production values have improved no end since the hand-cranked mimeo days. Worse, or just different, in that the field has become so intricately subdivided, impossible to address as a whole (I remember when a fanzine or convention devoted solely to Star Trek was a strange and wondrous novelty). As so many have remarked, science fiction’s conquest of the world through media success means it’s no longer ‘‘a proud and lonely thing to be a fan.’’ Journalists may still sneer at us – Ansible tracks the more egregious examples – but are nervously aware that they’re generalizing about an awful lot of people.
You were a nominee for the Best Fan Writer Hugo for over 30 years straight, and a multiple winner. What’s the secret of your success?
I got my start through chronic deafness: the gossip I misheard was generally funnier than the real thing. More seriously, Ansible tries to spice news with entertainment, mixing dull but worthy award listings with departments like As Others See Us, which highlights journalistic excesses, and Thog’s Masterclass with its examples of ‘‘differently good’’ genre prose. Something to annoy everybody.