By training he is a physicist and his first job was as a weapons physicist at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire, which formed the basis of his hilarious The Leaky Establishment (1984).
Langford has been active in British fandom, working Eastercons, Mexicon, and British Worldcons, including Conspiracy '87, the 1987 Worldcon, where he had been on the bid committee and where he was Fan GoH.
He was TAFF winner in 1980, traveling to Noreascon Two, and wrote The Transatlantic Hearing Aid (1985) as his trip report. The Auld Lang Fund was organized by the FOOLs to bring him to Aussiecon 3. He won the 2002 Skylark Award. Member Oxford University Speculative Fiction Group, BSFA. He was the one of the two first administrators of GUFF.
But it is as a fan writer that he excels, having received 21 Best Fan Writer Hugos, a record for anyone in any category. Much of his fan writing now appears in his monthly newszine Ansible – which has also received multiple Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine (see Best Fanzine Hugo Category for details.) A thirty-one year long streak of Hugo nominations (including 21 wins) came to an end in 2010. See Best Fan Writer Hugo Category for details. His fan writing has been collected in Platen Stories (1987), published by Conspiracy '87; in Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man (1992) and The Silence of the Langford (1996), both published by NESFA Press, the second being a greatly expanded version of the first; and in Crosstalk: Interviews Conducted by David Langford (2015), Don't Try This At Home: Selected Convention Reports (2015) and Beachcombing and Other Oddments (2020), the last three from his own small press Ansible Editions.
Besides Ansible, he published – in chronological order of launch, omitting one-offs – Drilkjis (1976-1982) with Kevin Smith, Twll-ddu (1976-1983), Cloud Chamber (1976-current), Hidden Shallows (1977), The Northern Guffblower (1978-1980), TAFF Tales (1980-1982), taking over the title from Peter Roberts and passing it on to Kevin Smith, and Sglodion (1989-1992).
As a pro, Langford is noted for his parodies, including two comic novels written in collaboration with John Grant (Paul Barnett): Earthdoom! (1987) and Guts (2001), respectively parodying the disaster and horror genres. Shorter parodies and pastiches are collected in He Do the Time Police in Different Voices (2003). His first science fiction novel was The Space Eater (1982); he has published several dozen pieces of short SF between 1975 and 2011, winning the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 2001. He proofread the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, is a principal editor of and major contributor to the third edition (for which he shared another Hugo Award; the same online version is now technically the fourth edition since a change of publisher in October 2021) and was a contributing editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. He has written numerous book reviews, collected in The Complete Critical Assembly (2002), Up Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002 (2002), Starcombing: columns, essays, reviews and more (2009) and Short Shrift: A Big Book of Little Reviews (2017).
He runs the small press Ansible Editions, publishing both fan and pro material; the fan publications include a number of free ebooks downloadable from the TAFF website, several – such as A Vince Clarke Treasury (2015) and the Terry Carr collection Fandom Harvest II (2019) – newly compiled by Langford himself for this site. Several other Ansible Editions titles are fanhistorical compilations and references by Rob Hansen.
Convention committees: Novacon 7 publications, Skycon publications, Faancon 6 co-organizer, Helicon daily newsletter editor (Heliograph), Mexicon 5 daily newsletter editor (Cactus Times), Sou'Wester daily newsletter editor (The Adelphi Coracle).
TAFF trip reports: The Transatlantic Hearing Aid (his own 1980 report published by Inca Press), TAFF Tales (Ken Bulmer's 1955 report, published by Ansible Editions), New Routes in America (Peter Roberts's 1977 report, published by Ansible Editions) and TAFF Trip Report Anthology (a 2017 Ansible Editions ebook collection of reports that were unfinished or too short for booklet publication, plus samples from reports still in progress).
Collections of Langford fan writing: Platen Stories (Conspiracy '87, 1987), Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man (NESFA Press, 1992), The Silence of the Langford (NESFA Press, 1996; expanded edition Ansible Editions, 2015 ebook), Pieces of Langford (Auld Lang Fund, 1998), Crosstalk: Interviews Conducted by David Langford (Ansible Editions, 2015), Don't Try This At Home: Selected Convention Reports (Ansible Editions, 2015 ebook; 2021 paperback), Ansible First Series 1979-1987 (Ansible Editions, 2016 ebook), Ansible Second Series 1991-2000 (Ansible Editions, 2017 ebook), Ansible Second Series 2001-2010 (Ansible Editions, 2017 ebook) and Beachcombing and Other Oddments (Ansible Editions, 2020).
Edited collections of fan writing by others: Wrath of the Fanglord (Rune Press, 1998; Ansible Editions, 2015), comprising favourite pieces published in Langford fanzine; A Vince Clarke Treasury (Ansible Editions, 2015) by A. Vincent Clarke; The Complete Skyrack (Ansible Editions, 2017) by Ron Bennett; TAFF Trip Report Anthology (Ansible Editions, 2017) by various past TAFF winners; The Complete Checkpoint (Ansible Editions, 2018) by Peter Roberts; The Astral Leauge Dossier (Ansible Editions, 2019) by various hands (mostly anonymous; see Astral Leauge); The Complete Cheap Truth (Ansible Editions, 2019) by Bruce Sterling as Vincent Omniaveritas; Fandom Harvest II (Ansible Editions, 2019) by Terry Carr; The Complete Patchin Review (Ansible Editions, 2019) by Charles Platt; A Budrys Miscellany (Ansible Editions, 2020) by Algis Budrys; The Complete BoSh comprising The Serious Scientific Talks (Ansible Editions, 2019), The Full Glass Bushel (Ansible Editions, 2020) and Slow Pint Glass (Ansible Editions, 2020) by Bob Shaw, all edited with Rob Jackson; Creative Random Harris (Ansible Editions, 2021) by Chuck Harris, edited with Rob Hansen; Willis Discovers America and other fan fiction (Ansible Editions, 2021) by Walt Willis; The Incompleat Burbee Volume 2 (Ansible Editions, 2022) by Charles Burbee -- significantly expanded from the version compiled by Terry Carr and eventually published in 1996 by Jeff Schalles.
Winner of a stupendous number of Hugo Awards:
- Best Fan Writer Hugo: 1985, 1987, 1989—2007
- Best Fanzine Hugo: Ansible 1987, 1995, 1996, 1999, and 2002
- Best Short Story Hugo for "Different Kinds of Darkness", 2001
- Best Semiprozine Hugo for Ansible, 2005
- Best Related Work Hugo for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, 2012
Awards, Honors and GoHships:
- 1977 – Nova Award for Best Fanzine Twll-Ddu
- 1980 – TAFF winner, FAAn Award for Best Fan Writer
- 1981 – Yorcon II
- 1984 – Picocon 2
- 1985 – Novacon 15, Picocon Pi
- 1986 – Koancon, Picocon 4
- 1989 – OryCon 11, Picocon 7
- 1990 – Uniconze, Nova Award for Best Fanwriter
- 1992 – Boskone 29, Picocon 10
- 1993 – Eastercon Award, short text category Ansible
- 1996 – ArmadaCon VIII
- 1997 – Intervention
- 1998 – OryCon 20, Minicon 33
- 1999 – Microcon 19, Auld Lang Fund
- 2000 – Tropicon XIX, FanHistoriCon 10 (special speaker)
- 2001 – Finncon 2001
- 2002 – Skylark Award
- 2019 – FAAn Award for Best Newszine (Ansible) and Best Online News/Info Resource (Ansible website)
- 2021 -- FAAn Award for Lifetime Achievement
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