David Rowland Langford (born 10 April 1953) is a Welsh science fiction writer and fan. He has won a Hugo Award for his short story "Different Kinds of Darkness", and 27 Hugo Awards in Best Fan Writer and related categories.
Many of his short stories are collected in He Do the Time Police in Different Voices (parodies) and Different Kinds of Darkness (more serious works). The latter includes his BLIT stories, set in a future transformed by the discovery of the Berryman Logical Imaging Technique, which creates computer-generated images that hack into the brain through the visual cortex and cause brain damage and even death in anybody who sees them. ("Different Kinds of Darkness" is itself a BLIT story.)
His novels include The Space Eater (straight science fiction), The Leaky Establishment (a satirical novel inspired by his time as a physicist at the government's Atomic Weapons Research Establishment), and, co-written with John Grant: Guts! (a spoof of creature-horror novels) and Earthdoom! (a spoof of disaster novels in which every possible disaster, from alien invasion to nuclear catastrophe to an army of cloned Hitlers, happens simultaneously).
He has had a monthly column in SFX magazine since it started, and used to have a column in White Dwarf magazine (back when it was a general gaming magazine, and not a Games Workshop house organ). He also runs the sf newszine, Ansible, which he describes as a science fiction version of Private Eye, and which now also appears as a column in Interzone magazine.
David Langford's works with their own trope pages include:
- See Temps for tropes from the short stories "Leaks" and "If Looks Could Kill"
David Langford's other works provide examples of:
- Achievements in Ignorance: The short-story "Different Kinds of Darkness" features a group of grade school children finding a less-powerful BLIT image ("The Trembler") and making a game of endurance contests with it, which ultimately enables one to withstand "The Parrot" long enough to keep anyone else from seeing it.
- Alien Invasion: Earthdoom!
- Apocalypse Hitler: One of the many apocalypses featured in Earthdoom!.
- Antiquated Linguistics: In a mock-report of Britain's first science fiction convention, supposedly held in 1882 and featuring Jules Verne as the guest of honour.
- Brown Note: The "basilisk" images of the BLIT series.
- Constrained Writing: "A Surprisingly Common Omission" is a drabble written without using the letter E.
- Fantasy Twist: In The Leaky Establishment, when Roy Tappen is trying to smuggle his accidentally stolen plutonium back into the NUTC, he briefly fantasises about claiming to have wrestled it from a Russian spy and being hailed as a hero. This fantasy rapidly shifts towards being asked serious questions about the supposed Russian spy, leading inevitably to being cast into the darkness with "UNEMPLOYABLE" tattooed on his forhead. Later fantasies are even worse, mostly ending with Britain becoming a radioactive wasteland, and he gets fired.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: This happens subsequently to death with the BLITs.
- Literary Allusion Title: "He do the time police in different voices" is a misquote from Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend.
- My Local: In The Leaky Establishment, the pub local to the protagonist's workplace is The Wheatsheaf. The nuclear weapon scientists who make up the clientele have taken one look at the sign (which presumably looks something like this◊) and renamed it "The Mushroom Cloud".
- Langford also contributed a story to the anthology Fables From The Fountain.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: All over the place in The Leaky Establishment.
- Our Wormholes Are Different: The Space Eater
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Tappen's "Eureka!" Moment near the end of The Leaky Establishment turns out to be this.
- The Stars Are Going Out: The Space Eater has a third of the stars in the sky wiped out by an early experiment with wormholes.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Time-travelling Hitler is a character in Earthdoom!
- There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: In The Leaky Establishment there are two kinds of nuclear weapons scientists: hawks ("We're gonna build something that'll wipe out the bad guys!") and ostriches ("Gosh, this is an interesting application of the theory, let's not think about why we're doing it"). (Well, three types: hawks, ostriches and Roger Pell.) The main character is an ostrich.
- Three Laws-Compliant: At a 1985 convention, Langford gave a guest of honour speech in which he detailed what he suspected the Three Laws would actually be:
- A robot will not harm authorised Government personnel but will terminate intruders with extreme prejudice.
- A robot will obey the orders of authorised personnel except where such orders conflict with the Third Law.
- A robot will guard its own existence with lethal antipersonnel weaponry, because a robot is bloody expensive.
- Whatevermancy: "Not Ours to See", a spoof story about Dagon Smythe, Occult Detective, features a discussion of various methods of divination, each with a -mancy name. They get increasingly ridiculous, before ending with the art of predicting the future by doing absolutely nothing. Which is, of course, dormancy.
- You Cloned Hitler!: in Earthdoom!