Langford, David

Tagged: Author | Editor | Fan | Critic

(1953-    ) UK author, critic, editor, publisher and sf fan, in the latter capacity recipient of 21 Hugo awards for fan writing – some of the best of his several hundred pieces are assembled as Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man (coll 1992 chap US; much exp vt The Silence of the Langford 1996; exp 2015 ebook) as Dave Langford, edited by Ben Yalow – plus five Best Fanzine Hugos and one Semiprozine Hugo for his self-produced news magazine, Ansible (which see). His one fiction Hugo is for "Different Kinds of Darkness" (January 2000 F&SF) as best short story.

Langford began to publish sf professionally with "Heatwave" for New Writings in SF 27 (anth 1975) edited by Kenneth Bulmer. His first book-length fiction, An Account of a Meeting with Denizens of Another World, 1871 (1979) as by William Robert Loosley and edited with mock-critical commentary by Langford, centres on a spoof nineteenth-century report of a UFO Close Encounter; its main narrative was summarized as if factual, without permission or payment, by Whitley Strieber in his "fiction based on fact", Majestic (1989). In Langford's one serious novel, The Space Eater (1982), emissaries from a devastated Earth are sent by a highly unpleasant form of Matter Transmission to a distant colony planet (see Colonization of Other Worlds), where they must persuade the local military not to endanger the fabric of the Universe; there is some satire on Military SF. The Leaky Establishment (1984), borderline sf, hilariously examines a crisis involving misplaced nuclear warheads at what many readers have assumed is what was then the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston (where Langford, who has an MA in physics, worked as a weapons physicist 1975-1980). In Earthdoom! (1987) with John Grant, a Parody of the Disaster-novel genre and of countless sf Clichés, a multitude of catastrophes afflicts the world more or less simultaneously: these include catastrophic Climate Change, Alien Invasion, a threatened Antimatter Comet impact, the return via Time Travel of Hitler (who soon Clones himself), and so on. The Dragonhiker's Guide to Battlefield Covenant at Dune's Edge: Odyssey Two (coll 1988) assembles parodies of sf and fantasy writers; its contents were incorporated into the much more substantial Parody and pastiche collection He Do the Time Police in Different Voices (coll 2003; exp 2015 ebook). Non-parodic fiction is assembled in the retrospective collection Different Kinds of Darkness: Short Stories (coll 2004; exp 2015)

Though much of his short fiction is entirely serious, Langford was long best known for the witty and ironic humour of his fan writing – first effectively distilled in the Fanzine Twll-Ddu (1976-1983) – his numerous magazine columns, and most of his full-length fiction, although it is sometimes over-broad. Long-running columns have appeared in Interzone – "Ansible Link", a digest of Ansible news (1992-current) – and SFX, comprising general sf commentary and humour in every issue from the magazine's launch in 1995 to #274 for July 2016. A tenth-anniversary collection of the latter columns is The SEX Column and other misprints (coll 2005; exp 2016 ebook); further SFX columns appear amid much other material in Starcombing (coll 2009; exp 2016 ebook) and as almost the entire content of the concluding All Good Things: The Last SFX Visions (coll 2017).

An early "nonfiction" book appearance is in The Necronomicon (anth 1978) edited by George Hay, Langford's contribution being to construct a hoax history of Computer decipherment of the eponymous "lost occult text" invented by H P Lovecraft but in this book supposedly known to and enciphered by John Dee. Langford has also written, often in collaboration, a variety of nonfiction texts of sf interest, all imaginatively conceived and soundly based: War in 2080: The Future of Military Technology (1979), Facts and Fallacies: A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions (1981) with Chris Morgan, The Science in Science Fiction (1982) with Peter Nicholls and Brian Stableford, Micromania: The Whole Truth about Home Computers (1984) with Charles Platt, and The Third Millennium (A History of the World: AD 2000-3000) (1985) with Brian Stableford. His introduction to the posthumous John Sladek collection Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek (coll 2002), edited by Langford, won a BSFA Award for nonfiction; Up Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002 (coll 2003; exp 2016 ebook) is a substantial retrospective collection of one hundred reviews and critical essays.

Following some self-published titles using his software trading name Ansible Information, Langford's Small Press was launched in 2003 as Ansible E-ditions in partnership with Christopher Priest, publishing new and newly collected work by David I Masson and John T Sladek; as Ansible Editions with Greg Pickersgill it focused on Algis Budrys's F&SF review columns, collected in three volumes 2012-2013; the imprint continues as a solo operation, mainly reissuing past Langford titles as ebooks.

Langford was nonfiction editor of the short-lived Extro from 1982 to its demise, and edited the early Online Magazine Starlight SF from 1982 to 1985. He has been sf reviewer for the UK newspapers The Guardian 1994-1995 and The Sunday Telegraph 2011-2013.

Though still producing occasional stories, Langford now devotes most of his time to nonfiction and editorial work including magazine columns as above, Ansible, Ansible Editions, and the present Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current web), edited with John Clute, Peter Nicholls and Graham Sleight, which won a Hugo as Best Related Work in 2012 – Langford's 29th and perhaps final Hugo award. [JC/NT/DRL]

see also: Anthropology; Black Holes; Cosmology; Eastercon; Fan Funds; Games Workshop; Genetic Engineering; Humour; Hyperspace; Immortality; The Infinite Matrix; Loch Ness Monster; New Writings in SF; Prediction; Pseudoscience; SETI; Skylark Award; Tuckerisms; Upload; Utopias; Wandering Jew; Weapons; White Holes; Worldcon.

David Rowland Langford

born Newport, Monmouthshire: 10 April 1953

died

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