David Lang­ford’s SFX cel­e­bra­tion is tinged with sad­ness

SFX - - News - David Lang­ford notes that SFX # 1 also had an in­ter­view with Iain M Banks. An­other good man lost too soon.

Lang­ford marks 20, while Bon­nie is times’d by 20.

This SFX comes rolling off the presses 20 years af­ter the first is­sue, which was dated June 1995, priced at “£ 3 of your Earth Money” and imag­i­na­tively num­bered # 1. In the light of hind­sight, true ubergeeks or Wil­liam Gibson would have started the count at zero. Some­how, over the decades, I’d mer­ci­fully forgotten that my first col­umn drafts were ti­tled “Su­per­crit­i­cal” – a quirk which in­au­gu­ral SFX edi­tor Matt Bielby wisely ig­nored.

Those were the days when pa­per­backs cost £ 4.99, the hot new cover- billed film was Tank Girl, Glas­gow’s first World SF Con­ven­tion took a full- page ad, the tie- in mer­chan­dise spot was headed “Ob­jets d’arse”, and read­ers were care­fully briefed on this new- fan­gled In­ter­net thingy: “All you need to connect to Fu­turenet is an In­ter­net ac­count, such as De­mon or Cityscape, or a di­rect col­lege con­nec­tion. Then sim­ply use your World Wide Web browser…” But first, switch the com­puter on.

Re­view­ers were seem­ingly in short sup­ply for the first half- year of SFX. In those seven is­sues, be­sides the first seven Lang­ford col­umns and an in­ter­view with Christo­pher Priest, I had 53 book re­views. To the re­lief of all con­cerned, this glut of me was never re­peated.

The first- writ­ten re­view was of Terry Pratch­ett’s Soul Mu­sic in pa­per­back, Discworld novel # 15. Now there are 40 ( with one last Tif­fany Aching YA tale to come), this feels like an early book of the se­ries but it cer­tainly didn’t then. As I write, the day af­ter Sir Terry’s all too early death at age 66, the trib­utes and obit­u­ar­ies are ev­ery­where. He leaves a big jagged hole in the world.

I was al­ways a tiny bit ner­vous about re­view­ing Discworld nov­els, be­cause I sus­pected I should de­clare an in­ter­est. Once upon a time I wrote an en­thu­si­as­tic reader’s re­port on Equal Rites for Gol­lancz, which may have helped per­suade them that they needed Terry. But they prob­a­bly didn’t need telling.

That led to many years of read­ing Pratch­ett for cor­rupt per­sonal gain – go­ing through the early drafts and re­port­ing on plot holes, con­ti­nu­ity prob­lems, jokes that seemed to need more pol­ish­ing or went right over my head…

“Lang­fordiza­tion” of Discworld nov­els be­came a tra­di­tion, con­tin­u­ing from Mort through to Thud!, but of course I can’t take any credit for the re­sults. Mostly it was a mat­ter of prod­ding Terry to tackle is­sues he vaguely knew about but hadn’t yet got around to. It was fun.

Amaz­ing rev­e­la­tions will not fol­low, since this tin­ker­ing was all in deadly con­fi­dence. As our man would add to email when he re­mem­bered that I also pub­lish an SF scan­dal sheet: “NFA, YB!” ( Not For An­si­ble, You Bas­tard.)

I’m end­lessly grate­ful for all the silly con­ver­sa­tions at con­ven­tions in places as far- flung as Australia; for the in­tro­duc­tions Terry gen­er­ously wrote for my own comic novel The Leaky Estab­lish­ment and my two Discworld quiz­books; and for the op­por­tu­nity to write about him in dozens of ref­er­ence books and, very nearly, an of­fi­cial Bri­tish Coun­cil “Writ­ers And Their Work” book­let. Although it was the Bri­tish Coun­cil’s own pub­lish­ers who ap­proached me about writ­ing this of­fi­cial ac­cep­tance of Terry into the UK lit­er­ary pan­theon, he pre­dicted that a back­lash of lit­er­ary snob­bery would en­sure “that this will wither away”… and he was right.

My jokey pre­dic­tion in the Septem­ber 1998 SFX: “A few decades hence, per­haps Sir Terry Pratch­ett will cel­e­brate his 80th birth­day by launch­ing the First Church of Discworld.” Right about the Sir, which fol­lowed in 2009. Wrong about the 80th birth­day – but how I wish I hadn’t been.

In the first seven is­sues of SFX I had 53 book re­views

SF writer David Lang­ford has had a col­umn in SFX since is­sue one. David has re­ceived 29 Hugo Awards through­out his ca­reer. His cel­e­brated SF newsletter can be found at http:// news. an­si­ble. co. uk. He is a prin­ci­pal edi­tor of the SF En­cy­clo­pe­dia at http:// www. sf- en­cy­clo­pe­dia. com.

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