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Milford 1986

Attendees: Alex Stewart * Bruce Sterling * Colin Greenland * David Barrett * Diana Wynne Jones * Gary Kilworth * Gwynneth Jones * Judy Blish * Lisa Tuttle * Mary Gentle * Neil Gaiman * Paul Barnett * Paul Kincaid (chair) * Rachel Pollack * Scott Baker * Steve Jones

MILFORD 1986, or
15 Characters In Search Of A Volume Control For Neil Gaiman

Paul Barnett Was There:

There is more room in heaven for a flannel nightcap than for a silver codpiece.

Arriving some three hours before anyone else, I discovered for myself what metropolitan Milford-on-Sea thought about this annual invasion of skiffy writers. I strolled idly down to the seafront and into a cafe for an ice-cream. There the fifteen-year-old server and her fifteen-year-old hangers-on fell about laughing throughout the entire transaction. After a quick check – yup, them flies wuz closed – I danced away in glee: there were soon going to be fifteen other buggers just as hilarious as me.

Of course I don't believe it – I simply embrace it fervently.

Various catchwords and phrases emerged at Milford, not all of which are easily comprehended by the amateur. Here is a brief glossary:
Crawling Testicles: Term introduced by Alex Stewart in a short story. Describes feelings of male participants when their story is being discussed.
Spung! Dignified Heinleinian term for the reaction of the female nipple to sexual stimulation. This word was used whenever there was a conversational silence.
Untenable: Term used by US cyberpunk (qv.) writer Bruce Sterling to describe stories either (a) not cyberpunk or (b) not written by Bruce Sterling.
Cyberpunk: Skiffy written by persons concerned with invasive technology – the gadgets that Definitely Will Invade Your Body. Dildoes deliberately excluded, even if coked up. Derivatives produced during the event included SCIFYBERPUNK and the much more digestible LOWFIBREPUNK.
Mirror Shades: Adopted as the uniform of cyberpunks (qv.).
Mazola Party: Term describing orgies so unstimulating that the participants have to use Mazola cooking oil to lubricate the parts that Heineken can't reach. According to Bruce Sterling (qqv.) such parties are engaged in by famous golden-age skiffy writers at worldcons. Your correspondent waved a block of cheapskate lard but got no takers.
Contabescent: A cold aerosol spray used in farming to wither the unwanted tumescences of billy-goats. (To think! – Call My Bluff used to be a clean game.)
Cutting Edge: Term used by Bruce Sterling (qqqv.) to describe cyberpunk (qv.). Cyberpunk is the cutting edge of skiffy. Us Brits are producing the frayed trailing edge. A stuffy rebuttal of this thesis by Neil Gaiman concluded: "We don't give a fuck. And you can't make us."
Bar Pixies: The mystical elementals responsible for the fact that only 57 pints were recorded at the bar during the sinking of an 80-pint barrel. The "missing" 23 pints were generally assumed to be those thrown away by topers who, although eager, regarded a fistful of evil-smelling foam as undrinkable. (This one will run and run....)

You cannot kill a man with a poem. You cannot rule a nation with a sonnet. I will keep my guns, sir, and you may keep your verses.

All stories brought to Milford were generally peed upon, the only exception being Garry Kilworth's "Blood Orange", which was peed upon by a militant few because it was too perfect. Gwyneth Jones, using occasionally subtle trajectories, peed upon every story in sight on the basis that she hadn't written it, and was then astonished when her own incomprehensible piece vanished under a flood of urine. Bruce Sterling, whose mission was to persuade the Brits to take up the True Quill (ie., cyberpunk) peed upon all stories until the moment his own was discussed; thereafter, having discovered what it was like, he mellowed. Diana Wynne Jones and Judy Blish, two very nice people, desperately tried to find something nice to say about everything – a difficult task, seeing as my story was one of those under consideration.

The battlefield is the place for blunders, not the cricket pitch.

Ah yes, my story. At 4750 words it was widely regarded as too long. What will they say of the 90,000-word Earthdoom!, I wonder. Too introspective?

Bear-baiting, sir? 'Tis not for me
Unless the beast a maiden be.

Various putative projects raised their heads during Milford. Now We Are Sick, edited by Neil Gaiman and Steve Jones, is to be an anthology of revolting verse for kids; surprisingly, money is being talked. David Barrett is soliciting contributions for a hypothetical series of short-shorts to appear in Computer Weekly; if this goes ahead the results will (or possibly will not) be collected to form a book. Neil Gaiman and your correspondent agreed to press famous Rupert Metcalf to allow us to try and flog a "Best of Knave Fiction" anthology: watch this space. It was generally agreed, too, that an anthology of sex skiffy was needed, and everyone except Gwyneth Jones and Bruce Sterling agreed to contribute. Alex Stewart was elected editor but doesn't fucking well want unsolicited submissions. "I'll get piles," he confessed in an unguarded moment, "of masturbatory fantasies from all those teenage wankers who read Ansible." The title of this editorial masterpiece currently wavers between the elegant Spung! and the catchy Saucy Science Wonder Stories. Who knows? Maybe some sucker of a publisher will buy the damn' thing.

Chief of men? He is a chief of murderers. But I will piss upon his grave – I and a thousand others.

Chairman Colin Greenland – Uncle Colin With His Merry Games for Boys and Girls – led the evening sessions. Fifteen of us had heady fun while Mary Gentle had a cold. Games included: (a) Call My Bluff (hence "contabescent"); (b) a variation on Consequences introduced by Diana Wynne Jones, which led to unparallelled filthiness (rhyming couplets: "Ships that pass in the night/Are particularly hard on ducks"; "While we're all playing with silly rhymes/ Dave and Mary are having a real good time [spung]), and (c) a version of Call My Bluff in which the Oxford Dictionary Of Quotations was used. In this last the "host" gave the name and dates of an epigrammatist and the flock had to supply possible quotes from same. Hence the pithy epigrams cited herein – and hence a competition! The first person correctly to identify the authors of the quotes listed here will get a free copy of John Grant's exquisite Sex Secrets Of Ancient Atlantis. The runner-up will get a signed one. You Too Can Be A Lucky Winner.

'Tis the good Lord's will that a rabbit goes well in a crust with onions.

During the week, Rachel Pollack got the news that a new book of hers had been sold to Thorsons. Your correspondent heard that a new Langford/Grant collaboration had been taken by Grafton. Neil Gaiman sold a piece to Today on Fantasycon, which summed up a ten-minute interview with nubile pouting authoress Lisa Tuttle in a single quote: "Fantasycon is just like a great big party." Oh how pleased she was.

Hast thou heard, my little boy/Of famous Humphrey Davy?
He put the sodium in our salt/And argon in our gravy.

Your correspondent and Paul Kincaid together won five games in a row of doubles pool on the last night, baffling all challengers. It was then agreed that they should play a singles game – a Duel of the Giants. The following morning, Kincaid refused to remember who had won.... [PB


The Garnett Alternative: "Having read the report in Matrix, which seems to be about different people at a different place, and re-read the one in Ansible 47 which excludes two of the essential participants, I think you need An Alternative Milford Report:

"It was observed that at Milford 1986, Scott Baker and 14 others wore glasses. The one exception was – David Garnett."

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