David Langford

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David Langford
David Langford
David Rowland Langford

(1953-04-10) 10 April 1953 (age 68)
Newport, Wales, United Kingdom
OccupationAuthor, editor, critic
Relatives Jon Langford (brother)

David Rowland Langford (born 10 April 1953) [1] is a British author, editor, and critic, largely active within the science fiction field. He publishes the science fiction fanzine and newsletter Ansible.


Personal background

David Langford was born and grew up in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales before studying for a degree in Physics at Brasenose College, Oxford, [2] where he first became involved in science fiction fandom. Langford is married to Hazel and is the brother of the musician and artist Jon Langford.

His first job was as a weapons physicist at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire from 1975 to 1980. [2] In 1985 he set up a "tiny and informally run software company" with science fiction writer Christopher Priest, called Ansible Information after Langford's news-sheet. The company has ceased trading. [3]

Increasing hearing difficulties have reduced Langford's participation in some fan activities. His own jocular attitude towards the matter has led to such nicknames as "that deaf twit Langford"; and a chapbook anthology of his work was titled Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man. [4]

Literary career


As a writer of fiction, Langford is noted for his parodies. A collection of short stories, parodying various science fiction, fantasy fiction and detective story writers has been published as He Do the Time Police in Different Voices (2003, incorporating the earlier and much shorter 1988 parody collection The Dragonhiker's Guide to Battlefield Covenant at Dune's Edge: Odyssey Two). [1] Two novels, parodying disaster novels and horror, respectively, are Earthdoom! [5] and Guts, [6] both co-written with John Grant.

David Langford at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, with two Hugo Awards. Dave Langford 2005.JPG
David Langford at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, with two Hugo Awards.

The novelette An Account of a Meeting with Denizens of Another World 1871, is an account of a UFO encounter, as experienced by a Victorian; in its framing story Langford claims to have found the manuscript in an old desk (the story's narrator, William Robert Loosley, is a genuine ancestor of Langford's wife).

This has led some UFOlogists to believe the story is genuine (including the US author Whitley Strieber, who referred to the 1871 incident in his novel Majestic). [1] Langford freely admits the story is fictional when asked — but, as he notes, "Journalists usually don't ask."

Langford also had one serious science fiction novel published in 1982, The Space Eater. [7] The 1984 novel The Leaky Establishment satirises the author's experiences at Aldermaston. [8] His 2004 collection Different Kinds of Darkness is a compilation of 36 of his shorter, non-parodic science fiction pieces, the title story of which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 2001. [9]


A number of Langford's stories are set in a future containing images, colloquially called "basilisks", which crash the human mind by triggering thoughts that the mind is physically or logically incapable of thinking. [10] [11] The first of these stories was "BLIT" ( Interzone , 1988); others include "What Happened at Cambridge IV" (Digital Dreams, 1990); "comp.basilisk FAQ", [12] and the Hugo-winning [13] "Different Kinds of Darkness" ( F&SF , 2000).

The idea has appeared elsewhere; in one of his novels, Ken MacLeod has characters explicitly mention (and worry about encountering) the "Langford Visual Hack". [14] Similar references, also mentioning Langford by name, feature in works by Greg Egan [14] and Charles Stross. The eponymous Snow Crash of Neal Stephenson's novel is a combination mental/computer virus capable of infecting the minds of hackers via their visual cortex. The idea also appears in Blindsight by Peter Watts where a particular combination of right angles is a harmful image to vampires. The roleplaying game Eclipse Phase has so-called "Basilisk hacks", sensory or linguistic attacks on cognitive processes. The concept of a "cognitohazard", largely identical to Langford's basilisks, is sometimes used in the fictional universe of the SCP Foundation.

The image's name comes from the basilisk, a legendary reptile said to have the power to cause death with a single glance.

Non-fiction and editorial work

EditorDavid Langford
Categories Science fiction related
First issueAugust 1979
CompanyAnsible Information
CountryUnited Kingdom
Website http://news.ansible.co.uk/
ISSN 0265-9816

Langford has won numerous Hugo Awards [15] for his activities as a fan journalist on his free newsletter Ansible, which he has described as "The SF Private Eye ". [16] The name Ansible is taken from Ursula K. Le Guin's science-fictional communication device. The newsletter first appeared in August 1979. [17] Fifty issues were published by 1987, when it entered a hiatus. Since resuming publication in 1991, Ansible has appeared monthly (with occasional extra issues given "half" numbers, e.g. Ansible 5312) as a two-sided A4 sheet and latterly also online. A digest has appeared as the "Ansible Link" column in Interzone since issue 62, August 1992. The complete archive of Ansible is available at Langford's personal website. Ansible issue 300 was published on 2 July 2012. [18]

Ansible has for many years advertised that paper copies are available for various unlikely items [19] such as "SAE, Fwai-chi shags or Rhune Books of Deeds". [20] In 1996, Ursula K. Le Guin wrote: "Tell me what I can send in exchange for Ansible. In Oregon we grow many large fir trees; also we have fish." [21]

Langford wrote the science fiction and fantasy book review column for White Dwarf from 1983 to 1988, continuing in other British role-playing game magazines until 1991; the columns are collected as The Complete Critical Assembly (2001). He has also written a regular column for SFX magazine, featuring in every issue from its launch in 1995 to #274 dated July 2016. [22] A tenth-anniversary collection of these columns appeared in 2005 as The SEX Column and other misprints ; this was shortlisted for a 2006 Hugo Award for Best Related Book. Further SFX columns are collected in Starcombing: columns, essays, reviews and more (2009), which also includes much other material written since 2000.

David Langford has also written columns for several computer magazines, notably 8000 Plus (later renamed PCW Plus ), which was devoted to the Amstrad PCW word processor. This column ran, though not continuously, from the first issue in October 1986 to the last, dated Christmas 1996; it was revived in the small-press magazine PCW Today from 1997 to 2002, and all the columns are collected as The Limbo Files (2009). Langford's 1985–1988 "The Disinformation Column" for Apricot File focused on Apricot Computers systems; these columns are collected as The Apricot Files (2007).

A collection of nonfiction and humorous work, Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man , was published in 1992 by NESFA Press. This was incorporated into a follow-up collection, consisting of 47 nonfiction pieces and three short stories, and published as The Silence of the Langford in 1996. Up Through an Empty House of Stars (2003) is a further collection of one hundred reviews and essays.

Much of Langford's early book-length publication was futurological in nature. War in 2080: The Future of Military Technology , published in 1979, and The Third Millennium: A History of the World AD 2000-3000 (1985), jointly written with fellow science fiction author Brian Stableford, are two examples. Both these authors also worked with Peter Nicholls on The Science in Science Fiction (1982). Within the broader field of popular non-fiction, Langford co-wrote Facts and Fallacies: a Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions (1984) with Chris Morgan.

Langford assisted in producing the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993) and contributed some 80,000 words of articles to The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997). He is one of the four chief editors of the third, online edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (launched October 2011), and shared this reference work's 2012 Hugo Award for Best Related Work. He has also edited a book of John Sladek's uncollected work, published in 2002 as Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. Langford's critical introduction to Maps won a BSFA Award for nonfiction. With Christopher Priest, Langford also set up Ansible E-ditions (now Ansible Editions) which publishes other print-on-demand collections of short stories by Sladek and David I. Masson, and review columns by Algis Budrys.

Excluding collections, Langford's most recent professionally published book is The End of Harry Potter? (2006), an unauthorised companion to the famous series by J. K. Rowling. The work was published after the publication of the sixth volume in the Harry Potter series, but before publication of the seventh and final volume. It contains information, extracted from the books and from Rowling's many public statements, about the wizarding world and popular theories concerning how the plot will develop in the last book. A revised version was published in the US in March 2007 by Tor Books, and in paperback form in the UK in May 2007. The book was commissioned from Langford by Malcolm Edwards of Orion Books, who were seeking a book about the Harry Potter series.

He has been a guest of honour at Boskone, Eastercon twice, Finncon, Microcon three times, Minicon (see List of past Minicons), Novacon, OryCon twice, Picocon several times, and Worldcon (see List of Worldcons).


Langford holds the all-time record for most Hugo Awards, with a total of 29 wins. [lower-alpha 1] He has won 21 Hugos for Best Fan Writer, five for Ansible as Best Fanzine, another for Ansible as Best Semiprozine, one for Different Kinds of Darkness as Best Short Story, and one for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as Best Related Work. [24] Langford also has the second highest number of Hugo nominations at 55 (behind Mike Glyer at 57). [23] He had a 19-year winning streak and 31-year streak of nominations for "Best Fan Writer" that came to an end in 2010. [24]

Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer: David Langford


Short fiction



Book reviews
YearReview articleWork(s) reviewed
2000Langford, David (July 2000). "[Untitled review]". Curiosities. F&SF . 99 (1): 162. Richardson, Maurice (1950). The Exploits of Engelbricht.
2001Langford, David (January 2001). "[Untitled review]". Curiosities. F&SF . 100 (1): 162. Hinton, C. Howard (1904). The Fourth Dimension.

See also


  1. This is a joint record shared with Charles N. Brown of Locus . [23]

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"BLIT" is a 1988 science fiction short story by the British writer David Langford.

"Eurema's Dam" is a science fantasy story by R. A. Lafferty. It was first published in 1972 in the Robert Silverberg-edited anthology New Dimensions II, and subsequently republished in The Best Science Fiction of the Year #2 and Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, Second Annual Collection, in The Hugo Winners, Volume Three (1977), in Golden Gate and Other Stories (1982), in Space Odyssey (1988), and in Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century (2001).


  1. 1 2 3 "Authors : Langford, David : SFE : Science Fiction Encyclopedia". Sf-encyclopedia.com. 28 August 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 8 June 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. https://ai.ansible.uk/
  4. "Let's Hear It For the Deaf Man". Nesfa.org. 25 June 2003. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  5. "Earthdoom by David Langford and John Grant".
  6. "Guts by David Langford and John Grant".
  7. "The Space Eater by David Langford - an infinity plus review".
  8. "Answers from the author of Ansible - Interviews - Publishing and editorial - BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT". Bcs.org. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  9. Christopher-priest.co.uk Archived 2016-02-01 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Westfahl, Gary (2021). Science fiction literature through history : an encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California. p. 232. ISBN   978-1-4408-6617-3. OCLC   1224044572. David Langford’s Blit (1988) features images generated by fractals that drive people insane.
  11. "Author Spotlight: David Langford". Lightspeed Magazine. 22 May 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  12. Langford, David (2 December 1999). "Comp.basilisk Faq". Nature. 402 (6761): 465. Bibcode:1999Natur.402..465L. doi: 10.1038/44964 . ISSN   1476-4687.
  13. "2001 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. 26 July 2007. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  14. 1 2 "What if ... the human brain could be hacked into?". Ansible.uk. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  15. "David Langford – Christopher Priest".
  16. "The Lid Ripped Off!". SFX (9). February 1996.
  17. Latham, Rob (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction. ISBN   9780199838844.
  18. "Ansible 300, July 2012". News.ansible.co.uk. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  19. "Ansible Masthead Spoilers". News.ansible.co.uk. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  20. "Ansible 344, March 2016". News.ansible.co.uk. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  21. "Ansible 104, March 1996". News.ansible.uk. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  22. "'Langford' SFX Column Index". Ansible.uk. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  23. 1 2 "Hugo Awards Tallies". Science Fiction Awards Database . Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  24. 1 2 "David Langford Awards". Science Fiction Awards Database . Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 1 October 2021.

Short stories