Monday, July 04, 2005

An alternative account of the Hub project: all these poets!

Ballad of The SF Hub

Andy Sawyer.
(Who is really, really sorry. He couldn’t help it . . .)

When thinking how to launch the Hub
We thought “How would it go?”
Would anyone be interested?
Would anybody show?
And even if it all went well,
Would anybody know?

Let’s call in Ramsey Campbell,
He knows a trick or three,
On how to work an audience
Convulsed with chills, or glee.
And he has sent his archive
To gather dust with we.

Let’s invite some stellar names,
It only is polite.
They may not even want to come,
But anyway they might.
But don’t neglect the scholars
For they have seen the light.

For sf’s academic!
MAs and Ph.ds
Swarm round the Universities
Like ants or mice or bees,
And bursars smile contentedly
Considering the fees.

And how much wood is hewn and pulped
For books and essays written
By earnest-looking scholars
With fame and tenure smitten
Who stroke their newly-minted tome
As if it were a kitten?

But where can all these scholars find
Intellectual inspiration?
Oh, there can’t be a library
With so much information?
As if by magic summon up
Our own SF Foundation.

Now safely based in Liverpool
Are books and pulps galore
From single-issue fanzines
To all you want and more
Of bio-bibliographies
All spread out on the floor.

But how to let the people know,
And catalogue it well?
Along there comes AHRB
With its financial spell.
(That’s Arts & Humanities Research Board,
As if you couldn’t tell.)

Our archive’s Stapledonian,
A Time and Space romance.
There’s Wyndham’s triffid manuscripts,
His wartime notes from France.
We’ve Lionel Fanthorpe paperbacks!
We have to stand a chance.

The grant is granted, in comes Roy,
With his mighty band
As Heather, Steph, and Elinor
Take manuscripts in hand.
To see it all encoded,
Ah, wouldn’t it be grand!

So here we are, the task is done,
Apart from all that stuff
Falling off of Andy’s desk,
But that is quite enough.
And back again to plan the launch,
And show that we are tough.

Then letters fall upon our desks:
McCready’s and then mine.
“It looks like Stephen Baxter’s coming.”
“Well, wouldn’t that be fine!”
“And Brian Aldiss, he says yes.”
“Go out and buy more wine!”

And now the launch, here Ramsey comes
(And everyone’s on time),
But he refuses speechmaking,
Declaiming forth in rhyme!
His puns excruciating,
His sentiment sublime.

But as our blushes fade away
From cheeks to burning throat,
Another shock to modesty
As Brian waves a note
And confesses that upon the train
An ode was what he wrote.

Oh shall I call on Stephen
To extemporise
Or follow the example
Of Brian’s words so wise?
I think he mentioned “to the pub”?
Well mine’s a double size!

But Baxter steps out to the breach
Extemporising well.
There isn’t any rhyme in it
As far as we can tell.
He’s praised the SF Hub again
So we won’t give him hell.

And now here come the journalists
To talk to me and you
Of why we think the SF Hub
Is something brave and new
So say “Sf’s postmodernist”
And don’t say “Doctor Who”.

So thank you, Horrormeister,
And thank you, Clarke’s Successor!
And thank you, Dean of Brit Sf!
It could have been a mess, or
Something not the maddest monk
Reveals to his confessor.

But thanks to thee, AHRC*,
And thanks to the Foundation,
And thanks to the University
We’re reached our destination.

*Not a typo. The Arts and Humanities Research Board earlier this year became the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Thank goodness the rhyme still fits!

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