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 novel The Leaky Establishment (1984).
Langford is active in British fandom (member Oxford University Speculative Fiction Group, BSFA). He has worked on the convention committees or in publications of Eastercons (Skycon, editor of Helicon's daily newsletter Heliograph and Sou'Wester's The Adelphi Coracle), Faancon 6, Mexicon 5 (daily newsletter Cactus Times editor), Novacon 7 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 the first British co-administrator of GUFF (1978–80). He was TAFF winner in 1980, traveling to Noreascon Two and writing The Transatlantic Hearing Aid (1985) as his trip report. The Auld Lang Fund was organized to bring him to Aussiecon 3 (1999). He won the 2002 Skylark Award.
But it is as a fan writer that he excels, having received 21 Best Fan Writer Hugos, a record for anyone in any category, with a continuous streak of thirty-one Hugo nominations (between 1979–2009, see Best Fan Writer Hugo Category). His monthly newszine Ansible has also received five Hugo Awards (see Best Fanzine Hugo Category for details) and sixth as semiprozine. He won several other "lesser" awards, and his fan writing has been collected in several fanthologies and books, see below.
Besides Ansible, he published – in chronological order of launch – Drilkjis (1976–1982) with Kevin Smith, Twll-ddu (1976–1983), Cloud Chamber (1976–current), Hidden Shallows (1977), The Northern Guffblower (1978–1980), TAFF Talk (1980–1982, taking over the newsletter from Peter Roberts and passing it on to Kevin Smith), and Sglodion (1989–1992). One-offs: Gonad Comes Again (1978) by many fans, Another Bloody Fanzine (1979 hoax) with Kevin Smith, Visitor's Pass (1981) with Stu Shiffman, Jackie! (1981) by many mostly anonymous fans, and Diolch Yn Fawr (1989).
As a pro, Langford is noted for his parodies, including two novels in collaboration with John Grant (Paul Barnett): Earthdoom! (1987) and Guts (2001), parodying respectively the disaster and horror genres. Shorter parodies and pastiches are collected in He Do the Time Police in Different Voices (Wildside Press, 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 Best Short Story Hugo for "Different Kinds of Darkness" (F&SF January 2000). He proofread the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), is a principal editor of and major contributor to the third, online edition (for which he shared another Hugo Award; the same website is technically the fourth edition since a change of publisher in October 2021) and was a contributing editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997). He has written numerous book reviews, collected in (among others) 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, which he maintains; 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.
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 (published by Conspiracy '87, 1987)
- Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man (NESFA Press, 1992),
- The Silence of the Langford (NESFA Press, 1996, being a greatly expanded version of the previous; further expanded 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 (2016), Ansible Second Series 1991–2000, Ansible Second Series 2001–2010 (both 2017 – all Ansible Editions ebooks)
- Beachcombing and Other Oddments (Ansible Editions, 2020).
- Wrath of the Fanglord (Rune Press, 1998; Ansible Editions, 2015), fanthology of favourite pieces by others from Langford fanzines
- A Vince Clarke Treasury (2015) by A. Vincent Clarke
- The Complete Skyrack (2017) by Ron Bennett
- TAFF Trip Report Anthology (2017) by various past TAFF winners
- The Complete Checkpoint (2018) by Peter Roberts
- The Astral Leauge Dossier (2019) by various hands (mostly anonymous); includes Jackie!
- The Complete Cheap Truth (2019) by Bruce Sterling as Vincent Omniaveritas
- Fandom Harvest II (2019) by Terry Carr
- The Complete Patchin Review (2019) by Charles Platt
- A Budrys Miscellany (2020) by Algis Budrys
- The Complete BoSh comprising The Serious Scientific Talks (2019), The Full Glass Bushel (2020) and Slow Pint Glass (2020) by Bob Shaw, all edited with Rob Jackson
- Creative Random Harris (2021) by Chuck Harris, edited with Rob Hansen
- Willis Discovers America and other fan fiction (2021) by Walt Willis
- The Incompleat Burbee Volume 2 (2022) by Charles Burbee – significantly expanded from the version compiled by Terry Carr and eventually published in 1996 by Jeff Schalles.
- TAWF Times Two (2022) by Madeleine Willis and Walt Willis, bringing together their Tenth Anniversary Willis Fund trip reports The DisTAWF Side (previously uncollected) and Twice Upon a Time; edited with Rob Hansen
- Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
- ISFDB entry.
- Langford website.
- Ansible Editions.
- Ansible the newszine.
- TAFF unofficial home.
- Thog's Masterclass.
Awards, Honors and GoHships:
- Winner of a stupendous number of Hugo Awards:
- Best Fan Writer Hugo: 1985, 1987, 1989—2007 (from the streak of 31 nominations 1979–2009)
- Best Fanzine Hugo: Ansible 1987, 1995, 1996, 1999, and 2002
- 2001 Best Short Story Hugo for "Different Kinds of Darkness"
- 2005 Best Semiprozine Hugo for Ansible
- 2012 Best Related Work Hugo for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition with John Clute, Peter Nicholls and Graham Sleight
- 1977 – Nova Award for Best Fanzine Twll-Ddu
- 1980 – 1980 TAFF Race 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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