Review: Crosstalk – All the Interviews by David Langford


  • $12.00
  • Print Length: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Lulu
  • Publication Date: July 10th 2015
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 9781326299828

David Langford is a fan’s fan.  Author, publisher, critic, editor and recipient of 21 Hugo Awards for fan writing. If someone were to write an entry for SMoF in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia, they’d use a picture of David as the entry.  Except Mr. Langford has been one of the driving forces behind the SFe3 and he’d probably reject that idea.

Other than his fiction work, David Langford is probably best known as the publisher, editor and main contributor to Ansible, the long running and happily resurrected newszine. (David published Ansible from 1979 to 1987 and then resumed publication in 1991.  The fanzine has had continuous monthly issues since.)

Ansible is famed for two regular features (among many others) – Thog’s Masterclass and As Others See Us.  The former presents strange and interesting examples of authorial faux pas drawn directly from the pages of today’s fiction, while the latter presents views of fandom from the mundane world, often unflattering and always revealing of why it is better to be a fan than not.

ansilogoAmong his many fannish exploits, David has interviewed a number of SF luminaries over the years, both for his own and other publications, including Amazon UK as well as a handful of more traditional fannish publications including Drilkjis, SFX, Critical Wave, Science Fiction Review and Focus.

During a bit of Facebook repartee, David mentioned that his press was soon releasing the print version of THEN, Rob Hansen’s history of British Fandom from 1930 to 1989  and I expressed interest in reviewing it (I’ve enjoyed the eponymous website as I am afflicted with a deep and abiding interest in fan history, regardless of its country of origin).  David countered with an offer of Crosstalk, his recently released collection of interviews.

Disappointed, I reluctantly agreed (bad form to refuse to accept free stuff from highly regarded fan writers as they have a tendency to write about things), figuring that he’d not want to incur the expense of shipping hard copy across the Big Pond, only to be foiled yet again by modern commerce.  Ansible’s books are published in the US.

I used the word disappointed above for effect.  I wasn’t really disappointed at all.  Free book is FREE BOOK and my groaning shelves can attest mightily to the fact that I never say no.  OK.  So I’m a book whore.  I live with it.  My wife lives with it and so can the rest of you.

Anyway, putting my morals aside, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed because I know a little secret;  most authors are or were fans before they made it to the big time, and, given the Langford’s publicly disclosed interests, I felt there was a pretty good chance that something about fans and their history would manage to worm its way into the interviews.

I was not disappointed.

Crosstalk consists of fifteen interviews with fifteen different authors and covers a period from 1976 to 2000.  There are three separate takes on Terry Pratchett, with one of them including Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart.  There are two with John Clute (with whom David works on the SF Encyclopedia), with one of them a joint appearance by both John Clute and John Grant.

The remaining subjects are: Stephen Baxter, Kristen Britian, George Hay, Tom Holt, Christopher Priest, Alastair Reynolds, John Sladek, Bob Shaw, Kevin Smith and Ian Watson.  Quite an impressive line up.

These are all relatively short interviews as most were put together for the SF blog pages on Amazon UK, and most were usually related to the occasion of a new release from the subject.  Sadly, several of these interviews are followed by an obit, which made reading them a bit of a poignant exercise, though the interviews themselves are quite lively exchanges.

David, as an interviewer has a relatively soft touch, frequently uttering only a word or two that elicits volumes from his subject.  His deep familiarity with both the works and the subjects aids greatly in making these interviews very personal and often playful exchanges.  A few of them had me laughing out loud as one often does during the outrageous flights of fancy that are common – if not mandatory – during fannish and SF author get-togethers.

Which touches on what is perhaps the best feature of this collection of interviews.  Any of these conversations could have taken place on a couch in the lobby or around a table in a consuite during a convention.  Love for fandom and love for the literature of science fiction is almost entirely unspoken throughout, but nevertheless manages to shine through.

Crosstalk is a very comfortable read and offers a window into the lives and process of some of the most recognizable names in the industry.  The span of years covered makes this collection a bit of an historical exercise as well, particularly with the Pratchett and Priest pieces (not to mention Bob Shaw).  The book is well worth its investment, even if you’re only interested in one of the authors covered.  You’ll read that interview and David’s style will draw you in, after which you’ll want to read the rest.

Crosstalk is highly recommended, even if you don’t have an abiding interest in fan history..


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