Xmas 1995 we breakfasted on fresh bread from the bread making machine. This diabolical R2D2 unfortunately wakes me when the timer starts the kneading stage, some three hours before the bread is ready. Xmas brought me a stainless steel frying pan, a microwave popcorn popper, a fridge thermometer, a microwave pizza tray, a microwave browning dish, a frozen food defrosting plate (actually a metal heat sink), a soft drink can sealer, several varieties of drink can holders for the fridge, and a book on the prospects of increasing human longevity. Not likely, with all that encouragement to overeat.
I am delighted to have a week off between Xmas and New Year, as I can now work furiously getting a few fanzines done. It was, for example, never my intention that Gegenschein become an annual, yet #71 was November 1994, and many fans still don't have copies of #72, nominally (ha!) completed in August 1995. With us travelling to the USA for the second time in the year in October 1995, I just didn't have the time to mail the issue. Nor, really, did I want to spend the postage money, even seamail, on zines that might well be caught and lost in the Xmas mail madness. I did hand deliver a certain number at Ditto in Seattle, like Corflu, a convention at which one sees a certain welcome concentration of fanzine fans. However a distressing proportion have waited until after Xmas 1995! I regret this delay.
Dick and Leah Smith commented that, since they started boosting the Australian bid for the 1999 Worldcon, they hadn't had the time to do their fanzine. It seems strange to me to be producing a fanzine which includes notes on a 1994 trip, at a date when I have two more US trips not written up. The Australian in 1999 Worldcon bid has certainly been occupying a lot of my time (and taking a lot of what I once blithly thought was my money).
I had an enjoyable and most informative time at Smofcon. Informative because it is the convention for fans who run conventions. Although traditional science fiction conventions are all volunteer run, and thus amateur, the dedication and skills brought to many of them are often very much at the professional level. Of course, being fandom, there are exceptions. However, Smofcon is the place for those who want to expand their knowledge of what works and what fails in running conventions.
Naturally enough, there is also a terrible lot of politics at Smofcon, not least of which are regarding Worldcons, NaSFiC and committee personalities. I freely admit that I'm neither good at that, nor very interested in it.
Despite this lack of political interest, I'm one of the half dozen or so Australian fans most heavily involved with the Australia in 1999 Worldcon bid. Although I am only one of many contributors to this effort, I am pushing heavily for a re-evaluation of what the Worldcon is attempting to do.
I believe the World Science Fiction Convention should focus on science fiction, and not attempt to attract everyone who might possibly be persuaded to attend. The constitution under which Worldcon is run makes mention of it being a literary society (even though that is almost certainly a bow in the direction of the IRS). The Hugo Awards are 12 to 1 biased in the constitution towards written material, whether pro or fannish.
Many traditional areas of SF are breaking away, forming their own conventions. There is a World Fantasy Convention, and a World Horror Convention, there is Readercon and Pulpcon for readers who don't find all of what they want at Worldcon, there is Corflu and Ditto and Toner for fanzine fans.
I can't see that Worldcon can be the biggest and the best in every single area. It certainly won't have a sufficient concentration on, say British TV, to suit fans interested only in Dr Who and Blake's Seven. It won't have the actors that perhaps a specialised and commercially run Star Trek convention might consider essential.
Worldcon is for science fiction fans, and for the creators of science fiction. I believe the problem is one of definition. Someone who has seen most of Star Wars and Star Trek may consider themselves a science fiction fan, and there are an enormous number of such people. I think it takes a far wider background to make a science fiction fan. I think that all the attendees should know why one of the conventions held near Boston is called Boskone, and another convention nearby is called Arisia.
In one sense, this is simply a call for participants with a widespread knowledge of trivia. In another, a commonality of background is the thing that makes us all fans. I don't believe you can be the sort of fan that a Worldcon is intended for if all you have ever done is read pulp SF, or all you have ever done is publish a fanzine, or if all you have ever done is make masquerade costumes, or if all you have ever done is attend Regency dances, or if all you have ever done is write filk songs, or if all you have ever done is watch Star Wars or Star Trek or Dr Who or ...
Worldcon is a function of the World Science Fiction Society. You must become a member before you can attend. I believe that ideally you should be a participant, and a participant in as many areas as your talents will allow. This isn't about being part of the audience, passively absorbing whatever passes your eyes. Fandom Is A Way Of Life.
Date Flight Dep Arrive Craft Seat 17 November 1994 QF 11 15:45 10:10 747-400 37C Los Angeles NW 50 12:20 19:40 DC-10 26G Detroit 24 November 1994 DL 347 09:10 10:55 767-300 18E Los Angeles 4 December 1994 QF 12 22:30 08:10 747-400 37H (arrive 6 Dec) Sydney
I arose at 6 a.m. as usual, having slept well, and headed off to work. I think I'm getting blase about travel.
Left work at 12:45, and caught an airport bus as soon as I reached the stop. The luggage seemed over heavy (why can't you get the Terry Pratchett style luggage in stores?) When checking in, I found the luggage weighed 28kg. I think that is excessive (even if certain US agents for Australia in 1999 ask where the rest of the luggage might be).
The airport Chocolate Box had diabetic chocolates. I must get some as gifts for my mother. The Duty Free had Curvo Especiale. Small world! Of course, I no longer have time to drink tequila.
Fire drill at Sydney airport, and the poor Qantas staff couldn't even use their public address! Looks like we will board on time regardless. Now if only they feed us soon - I ate a light breakfast, and had only an apple for lunch. As a result, I'm starving. Well, I suppose I could eat at the airport, but the choices appared to be between expensive bad food (airport bar) and cheap bad food (McDonalds). True, cheap bad food is a better choice than expensive bad food, however I prefer to avoid both.
Qantas served numerous bits of food, starting as we boarded with orange juice, followed soon after with stir fried chicken with chili (I'm not sure it was authentic anything). That was pretty tasty, but those large lumps of chicken were not stir fried. They had a light midnight snack, and a hearty breakfast with sausage, bacon, hash browns, and some low fat diary alternative desert, plus bread rolls and jam (jelly, for US fans). I suppose it all helps keep the staff and passengers occupied.
The films were Murial's Wedding, low key Australian comedy drama, and The Shadow, high budget remake of the ancient serial. I'm not at all sure why they bothered, despite nice special effects.
We made good time. I was surprised to see the speed chart showing we were doing 1000 kph at some stages, better than I've seen on most flights. We even arrived early, and were off in Los Angeles by ten. Naturally customs took a little time (but they are surprisingly quick these days), and baggage much longer. My biggest problem was actually locating Northwest for my next flight, and standing in their queues.
According to my watch, it is 11:15 on the morning of Thursday 17th. My computer, which has not been adjusted, believes it is 6:15 a.m. on Friday 18th. My body agrees with the computer ... and I have miles to go before I sleep.
Maybe it is the circumstances in which I always encounter it, but I don't like LA airport. Too large, too crowded, too noisy, too hard to discover where you are. I tried to use the airport information system, but although it indicated Northwest was in Terminal 2, there was no map, and I never did find a sign indicating which terminal was which. The prevalnce of beggars in the terminal was also annoying. Being panhandled half a dozen times in an hour does not leave the best of impressions.
The Northwest flight was in the cramped confines of a DC-10, not my favourite aircraft. The food was strange, moving almost to the "brown bag" specials I encountered someplace cheap. They managed a hot turkey sandwich (overcrisped) and a somewhat incredible (to me) ice cream biscuit that showed remarkably little tendency to actually melt. Both tasted too much like plastic, but 15 hours of travel might do that to the best of meals.
It is now, by my internal clock, about 30 hours since I woke for the day. I'm not coping with this version of All Night fandom near as good as I could when I was two decades younger.
My fellow FLAP member Suzi Stefl and Kent met me at Detroit airport, which was really wonderful. I managed to pay for the parking ($3), and the beer and chips at the fine bar they took me to after dropping off my bags at the hotel. We talked networks, and work related matters until round 11 p.m. Don't know what happened to fannish matters, and they didn't get to the convention.
I finally got to bed at 12 midnight, or 4 p.m. the next day by my time.
Got about seven hours sleep, so I was in reasonable shape. It turns out there is a large mall a stroll across the car park from the Crowe Plaza Hotel, so I wandered over there before they opened at ten. I was astonished and delighted to see a large crowd of apparently retired people doing Tai Chi (or perhaps some similar exercise) to music in the middle of the plaza. Suzi had mentioned that there were walking paths through the mall, prior to it opening, marked as to their distance. That seems a great idea.
The mall turned out to be the largest in Ann Arbor, and I found a Kinney's shoe store very rapidly. The only problem was that they had only one pair in my size. I also managed to restrain myself to only a half dozen books at Doubleday. There were many potential places to eat, but I confined myself to a turkey sandwhich at a deli. Had a lot of fun looking through two computer stores, which had an amazing number of games, but none of the gadgets friends had asked me to seek. They also had nothing suited to my own style of lightweight computing. I also looked through the travel luggage stores, which revealed a vast number of interesting designs for small bags, but alas not totally suitable to my purposes.
I noticed in the morning that the hotel had double booked the library, where Ditto was to be held, and mentioned this. Upon checking after lunch, I found the convention moved to a larger room, and George Flynn and Big Hearted Howard DeVore in possession, talking of old times. Lynn Hickman arrived soon afterwards.
Threw some Australian in 1999 propaganda on a table, and added some minties as snacks, while awaiting Leslie Smith, who arrived within fannish time (less than an hour) of her suggested starting time. Alas, I couldn't get a Ditto Tee shirt in my size. I think Moshe Feder got them all.
Fanzines handed out to
as people arrived at the convention venue over the afternoon. Talked. Wandered over to the mall round 6 p.m. and caught up with Pat and Roger Sims, who drove, and Tom Sadler, who like me walked. We inspected Ruby Tuesday, and decided an hour wait was too long. The Big Boy also had a queue, so we ended up at the deli. They didn't have queue - they also didn't have any forks, which may correlate with the lack of a queue.
Great con suite on the second floor, when it opened around 8 p.m. Didn't get to bed until 4 a.m., so I must have been enjoying myself talking but took no notes.
Up late (surprise) and off to the mall to get more turkey sandwich, before the panels started.
I was on an Australian fanzine panel with Leah and Dick Smith, which had some trouble filling the hour. Australia needs more fanzines. Thank heavens there are a reasonable number from Melbourne. Moshe Feder asked some interesting questions on why British fandom had the best writers. I blame it on the climate.
Ken Johansen says "I have to take Anne Laurie back to the hotel where they allow dogs". I'm not sure I should explain that innocent remark. This was the Wolverine Motel!
The auction Dick and Leah ran for DUFF introduced the concept of the Patrick, a dime. Anne Laurie bought three Patrick Nielsen Hayden fanzines, after much work, for a dime. Another zine soon after sold for a dollar, and Anne commented that was worth ten Patricks. Afterwards, many bids were in terms of Patricks.
Anne Laurie reported that Gary Farber wouldn't wake after a con, when they had to check out of a hotel. Anne dumped an ice cube behind his ear. No reaction. She dumped an icecube on the small of his back. He didn't awaken, but he did turn over. She dumed the entire bucket of ice cube in the most exposed area. He levitated, and they got him out of the hotel. I thought Gary never got off the email, and didn't realise he had time for conventions.
After Ditto, I hitched a ride to Cincinnati with Pat and Roger Sims, who have given me help, support and a room on so many trips. We had pizza for dinner, and I phoned everyone I could find to organise my social life!
Don Carter phoned regarding meeting and taking in a film. Don, Tanya, and Art (Bill Bower's flatmate) meet Roger and I. We saw Star Trek Generations. Great special effects. Pity about the script. But at least that ham Shattner got killed off. Twice. We lunched together and I took photos. Gigantic nachos, all present help help dispose of any surplus. The beer on Art, who had scored a free lunch.
Roger and I visited Jackie Causgrove later in the afternoon. I dropped off FLAP, and Roger napped, while we waited for Dave Locke and Bill Bowers to get home from work. Caught up on gossip, however I was distressed at how poor Bill's health appeared. I worked on the fax card in Jackie's computer while we waited, when she mentioned minor problems, and believe it is working. Another problem, the floppies not registering a disk change, could possibly to be a virus. However on reflection, it occured to me that if something has happened to pin 34 of the drive cable it may just produce similar problems (it is the drive change line), so I later mentioned that possibility also to Jackie. I guess most computer users don't consider typing Control C when they change disks an acceptable method of indicating a change.
After some consultation, and a few failing attempts at finding short queues, we dined at Ruby Tuesday. I must admit to admiring the quantity and quality of the food at these US chains of that style. I left off with Roger somewhat earlier than I really wanted, when he collected Pat. I just couldn't handle the tobacco smoke much longer. Although I was a lot better than I expected, given how badly I react to smoke here, where the smoke from even a few cigarettes in a large room is sufficient to give me a headache for hours.
Laundry to do, as always when travelling. While waiting for that to complete, I phoned Delta, where my reservation was swiftly confirmed. I was also able to install printing support stuff in Roger's computer. Having specially obtained a Panasonic driver disk (in Australia), it seemed the right thing to do. Grin. Roger won't get much work done on his computer if he waits for someone from Australia for repairs.
Roger took me riding around Cincinnati, looking at frivolous things. Cincinnati Computers. Border's Bookshop, with coffee shop, and and a music store, but not a record in sight, the CDs have taken over. CompUSA, large, impressive, but nothing I couldn't resist, and no sign of palmtops. Egghead software, much the same. I did see a HP200LX palmtop at the Office Supply Depot, where we got extra copies of the DUFF ballot printed.
Thommy's for dinner, apparently a regular event for some. Cokie was there, but I think Bill Cavin was still in Las Vegas at the time. Mike and Carol Resnick were both entertaining, and Pat and Roger were the other couple. Buffet style, not great food, but more than adequate in quantity, and very well priced. I had salad, in view of my plans for Wednesday.
Roger dropped Pat at work, then we visited a gigantic drug store, where I grabbed some party supplies. There was also a new Sam's which we visited. It was impressive, and included lots of the now cheap electronic typewriters with disk drive, one as cheap as $200. I have remained enormously tempted by that idea, for doing locs, but probably won't get around to doing anything about it. Just recently a store much like Sam's seems to have appeared in Australia. One day I may get a card and visit them, just to consider the differences (if any).
Dave Rowe and Carolyn Doyle arrived after 12, then we were off to the Montgomery Inn with Dick Spelman, who always struck me as too sensible to end up in charge of the Dealers' Room at LACon. Mark Linneman, well known to Australian fans from his long stay here, was the first to arrive, despite what may be the longest drive. He was in fine form, very entertaining, but reports still no job after nine months. I was introduced to the Rib King pork ribs several decades ago, and try to get to the place every time I travel to Cincinnati. It may be pointless, because I lack both the frame and the appetite to do justice to their meals, but I sure like to try. Having good company helps enormously also.
A party that evening at Stephen and Denise Parsley Leigh's home, at which Bill Cavin and Cookie also attended. The ever thoughtful Denise had phoned Rusty Hevelin, and he was thinking of attending, but fell asleep, and was awoken only by a phone call. I did get to talk with him on the phone, which was great.
Mark Linneman drove me to Cincinnati airport in Kentucky, on his way home, and timed the drive so well that I had barely reached the boarding area through the maze of trains and walkways when it was time to board.
The Delta flight was acceptable enough, and I had a relatively short wait for my luggage. Another ever helpful fan, Lorraine Tutihasi, met me at the distant Los Angeles airport, and drove me the seemingly endless distance to the hotel. We stopped off at a diner for lunch, where we had thanksgiving turkey. We sat and talked for a cnsiderable time after, unable to move due to the quantity of food.
No hotel problems at the Burbank Hilton, and they even cashed a travellers check for me. Soon after I came upon the ever helpful Don Fitch, who had been primed for helping the Australia in 1999 bid by the Smiths. We checked our room locations, and went and saw the hotel in search of a change so we could have adjoining rooms, for partying purposes. Soon after, I moved my already unpacked goods and chattels to the new room. That worked very well.
The Pot Luck con suite worked really well, with an excess of snacks, much of it real food. There is much to like in LA convention planning.
I walked to nearby Burbank airport, and bought tickets on Southwest to Las Vegas. I was able to easily phone Arnie Katz from the hotel room, however calls to Lorraine terminated well before all her number was dialled. Considering she is local, I was not impressed by the phone system.
I set up a bunch of Australia in 1999 propaganda on a table in the main fan area. After some thought, I left out the platypus and T shirts even though I knew with just me there, I couldn't attend to the table the entire time.
Viewed an enjoyable panel on the DC-X experimental ship. This included full videos of all the test flights, and spectacular films of the explosion on flight five. This showed pieces of aeroshell flapping loose along half the body, and breaking off and falling to the ground.
Late night parties were an everpresent feature. I think this might have been the con at which Robbie Cantor was fan GoH, a move contrived to let her relax and not try to run things. It failed, of course. I saw her doing security prowling well past midnight.
Didn't manage to sleep at all. This is a very bad sign.
No food to be found anywhere nearby. Actually, no nothing to be found. I was beginning to think I might be reduced to airport food.
We started putting out material for the Australia in 1999 party at 6 p.m., and rescued the display from the main conference building, so that it could be a central feature of the party.
Don Fitch started putting out his usual fine supply of foods a little later. We mutually decided a dinner was in order, so I ordered room service pizza. The quantity was fine, albeit overpriced, however the quality was not of the greatest.
Laurraine Tutihasi arrived around 8 p.m. to help take memberships. We only got eight this time, but a lot of people already had them from Westercon and Conadian.
Stayed open until 3.30 a.m. at which time only one other party was open. The major competition was a well organised Babylon 5 party, but no other 1999 bid parties. I was fairly keen to knock any USA west coast competition out early, so I was pleased about that.
There was not much sign of a dead dog party this evening, so we used our leftovers at a "word of mouth" closeout party. One blabbermouth at the party tended to drive people away, but with two rooms, we still had some space for people to talk. Special guest Julius Scwartz turned up for a while, and it was good to see him honoured by the convention. Gave up on parties around 1 a.m. but on a last sweep through found a fan sitting in the lobby awaiting a 10 a.m. flight, so I found him some crash space.
Helped Don Fitch pack the remaining party equipment, and I seem torecall we shared another pizza for lunch. It certainly was hard to find decent food around there, if you didn't have a car. Don's party equipment was a monumental pile. He has always helped the Australian bid far beyond anything that one could ever expect.
I dragged my bag across to the Burbank airport for my Southwest flight to Las Vegas. They had a crazy stewardess, doing announcements for what must have been predominently regular visitors to Las Vegas. She announced a wrong destination, and then corrected it to Lost Wages. The description of using the oxygen masks included the instruction to insert a quarter before using it. It was a very funny routine.
Joyce Worley Katz and JoHn Wesley Hardin kindly collected me from the airport. Las Vegas fandom have been really great to their fan visitors over many trips now. When you consider they also throw great parties, run fun conventions, and produce some of the best fanzines, you have to wonder how they find the time to be so nice.
Sat around talking fan history and politics in a smoke filled atmosphere, joined by Arnie Katz and Ross Chamberlain, until it was time for Joyce and Arnie to drive me to the gigantic Rio hotel where they had the largest, finest meal I'd seen in days. Despite this, I couldn't do justice to the quantity. We were joined at the meal by Bill Kunkel and Laurie Yates. While waiting Joyce took me through the casino, showed me how to play the electronic poker machines (I couldn't understand why anyone would bother, nor could Joyce), This was followed by the largest all-you-can-eat buffet which also had the longest queue. Must admit the lights and noise were overwhelming, since I couldn't even see the edges of the room. I was told that there were many larger casinos.
Dinner conversation was wide ranging, with a few gonzo topics raising their head, like the best State execution method. Joyce and Arnie paid for the meal, and I'm not precisely sure what I could get for them in recompense. I managed on various trips to leave fans hats, a propellor beenie once, and a few Aussie bush hats, but that sort of thing seems so inadequate ... as well as being hard to carry.
Sat round afterwards in the usual smoke filled atmosphere, talking fan history and politics and drinking beer. Maybe I can find some interesting beers for their party, as neither Joyce nor Arnie are really into beers. We were joined here by Tom Springer, who recenly started his fanzine Brodie. I continue to be amazed at the knowledge of fannish history the Vegas fans show.
We all collapsed around 11 p.m.
Awoke around 5, and then again at 9. I had needed a decent sleep, and that really helped.
Tom Springer, who produced his first fanzine, Brodie, a short time ago, arrived just after 11. He had volunteered to take me touring. Joyce arranged to get hambergers for lunch, and thus fortified, we set out. Circuit City was a gigantic computer store, full of brand name equipment and software. It was interesting to contemplate the enormous range of brand name gear, but worries me that niche market products are almost totally ignored. No sign of ergonomic keyboards, nor of palmtops, for instance.
We drove a little further through the sureal sights of Las Vegas, and checked out an Office Depot. I sort of hoped they would have the fancy keyboards that Tom wished to see, but I must have misremembered who stocked them. Again, the only palmtop was the Psion, which although very nice, lacks the memory capacity I need.
Kinney's Shoes, another on my mundane list, were harder to chance upon. We retired to a bar to contemplate the phone book over a cooling ale, and slow discussion. I could really see why the Katz said that Tom would fit right into fanzine fandom. He is a natural.
We eventually tracked down the appropriate mall for Kinney's Shoes, and braved the sign challenged parking area. I'm not sure what Tom made of my exclamations of joy as I plunged through a Sharper Image, a Comsumertronic, a Bloodstone, a Discovery, and similar stores. I really get a kick out of these places, perhaps because I virtually never go shopping in Australia.
If I recall rightly, Judy Beamish, Magicon treasurer, was also visiting Las Vegas, and called so she could attend any events that were on. I seem to recall we may have gone to Skinney Duggans. There was another party in the evening, again organised by Joyce and Arnie, with the usual list of suspects.
A very slow day ... and thankfully very restful. I think I sat and read, instead of writing up fanzine material.
All of us suffering from a cold. Too much partying, I guess. Southwest flight back to Los Angeles at 2.30. Ross Chamberlain, a fan artist and writer, who does wonderful covers for Las Vegas zines, drove me to the airport.
Back at the Burbank Hilton, almost as if I'd never been away, ready for SmofCon. Or as ready as I'm even likely to be. Scott and Jane Denis turned up, for once not in huckster guise. Peter Edick appeared, but we were distressed to learn there was no happy hour at the bar. Some of us drove to a not so nearby mall as an alternative, and discovered bookshops and interesting stuff.
I discovered a hotel shuttle to the same mall, and since there was nothing scheduled today, went on it and walked considerable distances. Found a short of memory Psion for $350 at Sears, but not the model I wanted. And a HP200LX at considerably higher than I liked at Office Depot. Wrong memory size, and I still can't see how to type on it. I really wish they would fix their keyboard.
I'm not going to do a blow by blow account of the panels or parties at Smofcon. Large chunks of my notes have already made their way into many discussions held by email with other members of the Australia in 1999 Worldcon bidding commitee. Those discussions now run to many hundreds of pages (email is wonderful for bloating the size of notes).
Tor, September 1995, 491pp, US$5.99
Long awaited sequel to The Ring of Charon. When the Charon Ring gravity research station accidently triggers the removal of the Earth from the solar system, chaos reigns. Can the remaining resources of the solar system learn enough to navigate through the galaxy? Can they find where Earth has gone, and does Earth still survive? Just what can threaten a race that can move planets, and threaten them so effectively that they must hide?
Some great concepts here, for the hard sf enthusiast.
Millennium, 1994, 312pp, A$12.95
On one of Asimov's Solarian planets, the Spacers' pending ecological disaster can be allieviated only by using the help of a large team of Settlers from the hive cities of Earth, now expanded through many star systems. However the greatest roboticists among the spacers are also attempting an experiment in making a robot that can help cope with such a challenge. Such a robot would not be subject to Asimov's Three Laws.
When the foremost roboticist is struck down, the sheriff must investigate who, or even more unbelievably, what, could have done the deed. Allen brings stonger characters and beliefs to a typical Asimov mystery, and attempts to consider the question of what it means to be human. Asimov and Allen fans should enjoy the result.
Bantam (Transworld), Sept 1995, 289pp, US$5.99 A$10.95
Second Corellian novel in this Star Wars trilogy. The revolt on all the Corellian worlds continues, with both Han Solo and Leia imprisoned by the leaders of the revolt, and the threat of more suns being destroyed by the unknown leaders of the conspiracy. Set fourteen years after Return of the Jedi, this well written novel should suit Star Wars enthusiasts.
Bantam (Transworld), Dec 1995, 301pp, US$5.99 A$10.95
Third Corellian novel, by skillful SF author. The New Republic must stop the Starbuster that will soon destroy another solar system, this one too heavily populated to evacuate. Even the norminal leader of the Corellian rebellion does not know exactly who really controls the Starbuster he claims as his secret weapon. Meanwhile, Leia's children have activated another planetary repulsor, and all the players now know and are seeking to attack it and control it.
Baen, May 1995, 337pp, A$10.95 US$5.99
Remember the badly written but fast paced Doc Savage pulps of the 1930's, all seemingly done by Lester Dent, at the rate of one a fortnight? This is an affectionate dimensional twist in homage to those old tales. A kick boxer chases his kidnapped girlfriend into an Art Deco alternate universe, and finds the only person who might be able to help him defeat the evil henchmen of the villain is Doc Sidhe, hero and magician.
Bantam (Transworld), November 1995 (Jan 1996), 399pp, US$22.95 A$29.95
Nicely done adventure for StarWars enthusiasts. Luke and his love Callista seek to restore her former Jedi powers by revisiting places where the spirits of dead jedi have appeared. Darga the Hutt has found the engineer who built the DeathStar, and is attempting to build another. Admiral Daala is reuniting the fragments of the Empire and plans an all out attack, aided by Pelleaon, second in command to the defeated Grand Admiral Thrawn. Lots of plot lines, reasonably well drawn together.
If you enjoy good 1930's style space opera, StarWars novels by known SF authors like Anderson, Allan, Zahn and others provide just that. There is little room to grow, and the characters rarely learn much, but the books are fine for light entertainment, just like the films. Well, come to think of it, I'd rate the films somewhat higher, because characters were permitted to develop in the films.
Tor, October 1995, 562pp, US$5.99
Sequel to Harvest of Stars, it follows the final attempt of the moon at freeing itself from the tyranny of Earth, while flashbacks fill in parts of the story earlier than those shown in Harvest of Stars. A marvellously evocative piece of space opera, told with great style and panache, in a very believeable future.
Bantam, August 1995, 341pp, US$5.99
A Galactic Center novel.
The surviving humans (if tribal cyborgs are human) from Snowglade have fled the homocidal mechs that infest the galaxy in Argo headed for the galactic center, relying upon the implanted microchips in their spines to tell them how to control the flight of their spaceship.
Pan Macmillan, November 1995, 610pp, A$12.95
Another Miles Vokosigan novel, superior adventures in which brains and initiative matter more than brawn. Many don't really need to be presented as SF, however I guess the audience is more receptive. In this one, Bujold has Miles clone brother getting into trouble. Mark is not physically disabled, however he is not as smart as Miles. A nice exploration of differences in termperament. Bujold does an excellent job of exploring character in her novels.
Orbit, 1995, 387pp, A$12.95
13 stories and 5 articles by one of the best hard sf authors.
Tor, July 1995, 383pp, US$5.99
A fine traditional space adventure, volume one of The Chaos Chronicles. Survey pilot John Bandicut is having his usual bad day with his bosses on Triton. Things don't improve when a relic from an eon old civilisation decides that now is the right time to end a hundred million year sleep, and save the solar system. Unfortunately, Bandicut is the person the relic selects to do the saving. But who would believe anything of Bandicut? Especially that his mind is shared by a relic of the custodians.
Pan Macmillan, December 1995, 463pp, A$12.95
Noted fantasy author provides a sequel to Moonheart (which should be read prior to reading this novel).
Pan Macmillan, Sept 1995, 675pp, A$12.95
New novel from a noted fantasy author.
Norstrilia Press, 1983, 200pp
Rare first novel, and I guess that Greg Egan is wishing is was even rarer. It will be interesting to see how much of his talent now shows in this early novel.
Baen, August 1995, 285pp, US$5.99
Hard SF authors write stories and articles about the potentials and dangers of nanotechnology. There are essays by K Eric Drexler, Arlan Andrews, Kevin J Anderson and Greg benford. Stories by Greg Bear, Poul Anderson, Kevin J Anderson, Charles Sheffield and many more. A fine collection for the hard SF enthusiast.
Baen, Sept 1995, 341pp, US$5.99
Twenty stories, more than half by women, about women warriors. It is unlikely that any of the authors take the S&S genre all that seriously. Indeed, it may well be that even the publisher had an inkling of this. I quote the publisher's note from the back cover.
"The Publisher wishes it known that the title for this volume was chosen by the editor and not by him. As a sensitive New Age Guy in good standing it would simply never occur to him to propose such a title, and he was shocked - shocked - that it did to others."
More bad puns per story than I've seen in a long time. Some of the events described are unlikely, even for fantasy. A great read, and very, very funny. Highly recommended, especially if you feel politically incorrect.
DelRey, December 1995, 321pp, US$5.99
Sequel to Code of the Lifemaker, again set on Titan, a few months after the events of that novel. Industrial combines realise the productive capacity of the native Titan machine life, and want to take over the scientific expedition. Meanwhile the scientists start finding out just which long dead civilisation created the original factories that finally evolved into the Titan machines. However, some traces remain of the original Lifemakers.
Close to the original in style and presentation, it provides a nice follow up, without going as far off the end as the fourth Giants novel. I enjoyed it. Oh yes, the stage magician Zambendorf does a great job.
Bantam (Harper Collins), Sept 1995, 343pp, A$11.95
Typical cyberpunk future, with high tech biosciences, and your usual "heart of gold" (he bought it on the black market) criminal enforcer type working hard to make a living to buy his sister back all the pieces of her body she lost to a knief weilded by an even nastier type. Yes, and revenge upon the sister abusers also. In chapter two ...
Pan Fantasy (Macmillan), August 1995, 527pp, A$13.95
Book three in The Chronicles of Tenebrak, to be concluded in book 4. Another West Australian author doing well in fantasy.
Bantam (Transworld), December 1995, 320pp, A$12.95 paper
I mentioned the $29.95 hardcover, released in November 1994, in #71, and the trade paper, released in July, in #72. This is the same with redone typesetting, in a standard paperback format. Story of pet dolphins, newly rediscovered as part of the two thousand year old introduced fauna of Pern. Not bad, but basically for completists.
Baen, August 1995, 409pp, US$5.99
Captain Heris Serrano has only a space yacht and some obsolete ships available to defeat an invading fleet. Third novel set in her horsey universe, and Elizabth Moon continues to do a good job, despite the plot creaking more than a little this time.
Bantam, December 1995, 357pp, US$4.99
The idea of cryonic suspension is no longer new, and has made an appearance in multiple sf novels. Linda Nagata writes a strong novel of how the life of one woman is changed when she must have the body of her dying husband suspended. Decades pass, and she uses her money to help fund research aimed at regaining her lost love, despite changes in the attitude of society, and many changes in herself. A serious exploration of the effects of a major technical change, both on the individual and on an uncaring society. It reads well as an adventure also, not an easy mixture. Recommended.
Bantam (Transworld), Sept 1995, 391pp, A$10.95 US$5.99
Paperback of a hardcover reviewed in Gegenschein previously.
AvoNova Fantasy (Transworld), August 1995, 317pp, A$10.95 US$4.99
Second Chronicle of Fionn mac Cumhal, and alas there is at least one more.
Baen, June 1995, 342pp, US$5.99 A$12.95
Sequel to Pohl's Man Plus, which told of modifying a human so he could live on Mars, although afterwards no-one is sure Roger Torraway is still human, not even Roger himself.
Mars is now starting to be colonised, the original cyborgs are reclusive explorers, seldom seen in the colonies of the unmodified humans. The cyborg support systems are aging and some fear replacement will become impossible. The computer net upon which the colonies rely has become unstable and more than slightly unpredictable, as if a new player has entered the game. A neat continuation of the original novel, fitting in well with the recent surge of novels about colonising Mars.
Corgi (Transworld), January 1996, A$14.95
What can you say. It is a map, with notes about why there is (finally) a map. It is probably even as accuarte as any map based upon 18 novels could be. It is more accurate than I need. If you are a Pratchett enthusiast, you may well need this map (and the Ankh-Morpork map as well).
Doubleday and Corgi
As I said last issue, I basically can't stand Robert Rankin's absurd novels, and haven't read any of them since the first few appeared. Perhaps people more impressed by icons of the '60's will like them better. The ones just released are The Most Amazing Man Who Lived (Doubleday - Transworld, January 1996, 318pp, A$11.95 paperback), and The Garden of Unearthly Delights (Corgi Transworld, January 1995, 253pp, A$29.95).
Hillbilly Feast Press, 1993, 151pp
Subtitled "Fear and loathing in Austin: A Savage Journey into the Heart of the Fanboy Dream", and it certainly was more than passing strange, even for a story about fandom. Writer Ernest Hogan did the illos. This may have something to do with attending a convention. It was probably written under the influence of something.
AvoNova, August 1995, 328pp, US$5.50
World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. A classic "return to the '60's" novel, probably positioned perfectly to cash in on the current wave of nostalgia. Ray Shackleford works from home as a CD and stereo repairman, but his passion is '60's music. He imagines the music and songs that might have existed, had not the groups broken up, or the pivotal figures burned out on bad drugs, fast cars, or ruined lives.
When he imagines them well enough, the songs they never sung become real, and his world changes a little. Great story, even if I didn't know the characters.
Pan Macmillan, Sept 1995, 231pp, A$12.95
Wide leading means this slim novel is shorter than it first appears. I seem to have an image of the earlier three Majipoor novels being somewhat larger. Not that the quality of a novel is proportional to its length, whatever the trends in recent fantasy. Silverberg is an excellent writer.
Tor, May 1995, 447pp, US$5.99
Pallas is the new frontier, an asteroid whose surface has been enclosed and terraformed. The inhabitants are all free citizens, gun toting, the sort of stuff from a Libertarian wet dream. So what is a little slave colony doing in the middle of it? Adversity brings out the best in Emerson Ngu, who escapes, and turns into a straight talking, fast shooting inventor and entrepreneur, determined to clsoe down the colony in which he grew up.
As always in this style of novel, things work because the author set them up that way, however it is still a lot of fun, and it is optimistic, and fast paced, and paints a picture of a worthwhile life. That is worth a little preaching by this Prometheus Award winner.
Bantam, Oct 1995, 453pp, A$11.95 US$5.99
Spinrad does better television than the TV stations do, starting with his wonderful satiric novel Bug Jack Baron. Station KLAX has a wonderful exclusive. Their station has been taken over by eco-terrorists, the manager and news team are hostages, their bosses are pissed off, and the LAPD and the CIA are both outside planning to take out the building with rockets and tanks.
A wonderful work of satire, cutting and slashing targets in plenty. Spinrad does a great hatchet job.
Ace, November 1995, 279pp, US$5.50 A$10.95
A disaster novel, much like the many to emerge from the UK a few decades ago, however Alan Steele is an optimistic writer, so this future is not as bleak as you might expect.
The USA Midwest is in ruins following a massive earthquake in 2013, and St Louis is one of the more devestated areas. The number of homeless and jobless in tent cities has provided an excuse for callous treatment by the Emergency Relief Organisation, and others find the chaos a suitable background for a power grab. A reporter stumbles upon some aspects of what is taking place, and when a colleague is killed, sets out to expose what is happening.
A fast paced novel, more concerned with events than technology, but with a decided SF twist. Not Steele's best, however I enjoyed it. I think Steele missed a few bets. A character is traced because of a tracing device ... however the same character is using a palmtop computer with cellular radio facilities all the time. Is there anyone out there reading this who doesn't understand that you could trace each cellular phone to at least the cell it is currently in whenever it is switched on? Whether this is currently actually being done is an operational question, and I don't know the answer.
Sybylla Co-op Press, 1st Floor, Ross House, 247-251 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000. 1995, 260pp, A$22.95
"The first anthology of Australian women's speculative fiction, magical realism and fantasy", according to the cover blurb. Twenty three authors contribute to this excellently produced volume.
Dell (Transworld), August 1995, 278pp, US$5.50 A$9.95
Two novels into a new series is perhaps too soon for judgments, however I am not impressed. Various viewers have told me Babylon 5 is the best of the sf series on TV (and that may well be so). The novels are pedestrian police proceedurals, spiced up with a little politics, and making many assumptions about how well you have followed the characters in the shows.
NEL (Hodder and Stoughton), 1995, 482pp, A$14.95
An alien invasion, by a civilisation marginally more advanced than ours, but dumber. This severely interfers with the Second World War and lets the author do a nice set of alternate world adventure and war stories, of which this is the second. Nicely written, lots of characters. Harry Turtledove is a professional author and obviously talented as a historian.
Dell (Transworld), January 1996, 249pp, US$5.50 A$9.95
Third book, and once again it reads like a real standard adventure, with few traces of anything to do with SF. For viewers of the series only, I'd suggest. There is nothing wrong with the books, as stories, but that is all they have going for them.
Baen, September 1995, 442pp, US$5.99
Fifth of Weber's military action adventures featuring Honor Harrington. Beached by Manticore after killing her long time enemy, a hereditary Lord, in a duel, Honor takes her earned place as Steadholder on Grayson, well away from Manicore. Fundamentalists object, and will take any action to destroy her increasing influence on their planet. Meanwhile, Rob S Pierre has taken control on Haven, and knows he needs continued military victories to retain power. The war with Manticore is about to involve Grayson once again.
Superior military space opera, in the Horatio Hornblower tradition.
Bantam Transworld, October 1995 (Aust Jan 1996), 356pp, A$12.95 US$5.99
Seventh (and last) book in the Death Gate fantasy cycle. Lots of flying dragons on the cover, and the usual white bearded magician figure. Usual life and death struggle between good and evil. I really am sick and tired of fantasy being promoted to a SF audience. While there may be an audience overlap, they really are different genres.
Bantam, Dec 1995, 360pp, A$12.95
In the first novel in this SF adventure series, the human Commonwealth was savagely attacked by incredibly powerful alien starships. In this second novel, we see events from the alien Zhirrzh viewpoint, with flashbacks to how the war started, when the humans attacked the alien ships.
It is also a time of unwanted change for the Zhirrzh, as clans jockey for position and power, and the old certainties about being the ruling race face a possibly stronger human civilisation.
A nicely done creation of a relatively alien race, within the confines of an adventure.
It is highly likely that additional locs, or more complete versions of these, will appear on the web page edition of this issue (all depends on how well the scanner works).
2815 School Street, Alexandria VA 22303 USA
Thanks for the copies. Talk about the slow boat from China, or Australia as the case may be. I received it ... nearly four months later. I can see why you use email to let your friends know when you are coming to visit.
The last sentence of your review of Kress's Beggars in Spain is nicely ambiguous. I read the novella that was expanded into the novel. The premise struck me as a yuppie's whiny fantasy - everybody hates us because we are superior. I don't see how being able to stay up all night every night would give you that much of an edge. There's a great J. G. Ballard story called Manhole 69 you may have read. Three guys go through an experiment where they no longer sleep. By the end all three have a joint hallucination that the room they're in is getting smaller and smaller, until they are stuck in a manhole with no exit and a single bare bulb for light, and then the light goes out. The no sleep bit was also a premise for an episode of the X-Files (do you get that show?) - Marines in Vietnam receive operations to become sleepless killing machines. Maybe it's some kind of anti-science bias on my part, but I find these scenarios where everything goes wrong a little more believable.
Postal rates from here for a 14 page fanzine are $1 seamail, $1.50 airmail. For say 34 pages seamail is $1.40, airmail is $2.50. It certainly makes you think about your zine delivery methods. It is one reason my zine now appears on the net well before I mail it. The X-Files have been screened here. I haven't often watched it - too often the episodes were crap, so I gave up on it. EL
PO Box 692, Mornington, Vic 3931
You're correct about the repeating pattern of characters and action/plot in the fantasy novels. However they're by no means the sole offenders. So much SF, from the Campbell era onwards, is in the same boring mold/mould as those fantasy novels you criticise: terrible doom threatens, only X can save the universe as we know it and restore the status quo. Rarely is there character development, or even adequate description of the physical environment, especially not odours/smells; basic science is ignored. Internal illogicalities and inconsistencies, lack of research and all of the previous faults, can mar even the best of stories. I do try to be careful in my own writings. One fantasy writer who rises above the others like a comet is Terry Pratchett. His combination of satire and parody I find delightfully entertaining.
Even in films and TV, logical inconsistencies and poor science iritate me, e.g.
We've taken a direct hit on our primary fusion reactor, sir!'
My immediate reaction was to wonder why they hadn't blown up! How well
protected was that reactor and if it didn't blow, how truely necessary
was it at all, because the spaceship lost no manouverability nor weapons
capability. Obviously the characters had a secondary fusion reactor in
operation, because no ship's system even blinked. Upon consideration,
I'd say continuity is fiction's greatest pitfall.
Re Gegenschein 72. The recent batch of Star Wars novels are a welcome improvement on the novelizations brought out a little after the original movies - the worst of these was possibly the Alan Dean Foster book (oddly it had a quite attractive cover) - this book was in a class with the Marshak Culbreath Star Trek novels i.e. very, very bad.
1014 Concord Street Framingham, MA 01 701 - 4502 USA
mail lgillen at world std com 31 March 1995
Thanks ever so much for Geg 71 of November, 1994, received on 29 March 1995. I don't have any dead pigeon stories like John Berry, but birds are all around ... me. Right now I am working two jobs. One is evenings and Saturdays at the local [Tandy] Computer City, selling multimedia Power Macintoshes with 486DX2-66 coprocessors for $2300+/- [with 16 megs RAM and .5 Gig HD]. Within that building congregate starlings, swooping around near the high ceiling, and making it only slightly more dangerous to work there than by being attacked by the GSM (general store manager) for spending too much time talking technology to prospective customers. Oh, the anarchist in me enjoys the challenge of finding "bundled SKUs", that is, listings of computer with monitor and printer at Ye Bargain Price. Thimgs not advertised but in the terminal. I've sold Hewlett-Packard DeskWriter/DeskJet inkjet color printers for as low as $1 0 above the price of buying a Mac without printer, thus saving customers $440 [plus the usual 5% tax collected in ' this state] and I've also shown customers how to buy an IBM DX2-66 minitower plus monitor plus inkjet printer for the price of the IBM alone. And a week ago Saturday was able to get so far as to end up having a customer save some $700 by adding a monitor and printer to the purchase of a Canon-brand 90 MHz Pentium multimedia tower. In other words, the price of the CPU alone was $700 more than the price of the three pieces together.
I love it!
The other job I have is a temp(orary) day job subcontracting through an employment agency to work in the administrative office at the local state prison, the only medium-security female;only prison in Massachusetts. And in the entry area, before you hit the "trap" where you are scanned for weapons etc., live at least a couple of robins, who chirp happily away and fly way above our heads. I hope that soon the paperwork will be completed and again I will be working in Boston for the state. And there are eagles living downtown which I have yet to encounter.
Well, great, this is all I can write within my jail lunch time. So on to the Post Office before the LoC grows stale and/or distended. Huh?
Best regards and remember, anytime you want to take the 25c tour of MetroWest Massachusetts, let me know.
2815 School St., Alexandria VA 22303 USA
April 1, 1995
Thank you for the copies of Gegenschein nos. 70 and 71. Talk about the slow boat from China, or Australia as the case may be. From the postmark on the one envelope I see you mailed it January 2. I just received it two days ago, nearly 4 months later. Not that I'm complaining, understand. I appreciate you taking the time and expense. But I can see why you use e-mail to let your friends know when you're coming to visit.
I like your book reviews--short and to the point.
Interestingly, of the two books among your reviews that are on my list to read eventually, Gibson's Virtual Light and Patricia Anthony's Cold Allies, the first you didn't like and the other you couldn't get into. I'll probably read them (eventually) only to find out you're right. The last sentence of your review of Kress's Beggars in Spain is nicely ambiguous. I read the novella that was expanded into the novel. The premise struck me as a yuppie's whiny fantasy--everybody hates us because we're superior. I don't see how being able to stay up all night every night would give you that much of an edge. There's a great J.G. Ballard story called "Manhole 69" you may have read. Three guys go through an experiment where they no longer sleep. By the end all three have a joint hallucination that the room they're in is getting smaller and smaller, until they are stuck in a manhole with no exit and a single bare bulb for light, and then the light goes out. The no sleep bit was also a premise for an episode of the X-Files (do you get that show?)-- Marines in Vietnam receive operations to become sleepless killing machines. Maybe it's some kind of anti-science bias on my part, but I find these scenarios where everything goes wrong a little more believable.
I've always hated using the phone too. Some of the things you mention in your article in #70 are already in use now. There are telemarketers that instantly bring up you name, address, credit history, previous purchases, etc., all keyed to your phone number when you call in. I also saw on tv some company with "smart" ID badges that do everything you speculated. There are companies now that will implant a small electronic device subdermally into your pet so if it gets lost it can be identified with a scanner. It isn't much of a leap to be able to do the same for you and me--inject an implant that is then nearly impossible to remove, and that can be read by satellite to track us wherever we go.
"Orwell was an optimist," as someone put it in a letter I received a while back. In fact, in U.S. currency now, in bills $10 and higher, there is a thin strip inside the weave of the paper running down one side. You can see it if you hold it up to the light. The strip has the denomination printed on it, to discourage counterfeiting. In addition, at least according to a couple of article I read recently, there are magnetic threads woven into this strip, that carry digital coding that can be read by a machine. This way the government can track currency movements, so that they can get a handle on the transactions of people who deal in the all cash economy and don't have credit cards and checking accounts to make such tracking easy. This is supposedly done in the name of defeating the two big bugaboos of American society--drug dealing and terrorism. Of course the government itself has a long history of involvement in drug dealing, and about the only time we have any terrorism is when the F.B.I. can use an agent provocateur to convince dim immigrants to plan to blow up half of New York, as with the trial that is going on right now.
I guess the point John Berry's story is to get the animal lovers all upset. What's one pigeon more or less? It's not like they're an endangered species. It takes a big man to be able to laugh at himself. The main point I got from the story is that John is basically a prat. I hope he doesn't operate power tools, or is responsible for the care of any small children.
P0 Box 136, Yanco NSW 2703
5 November 1995
Intriguing. I also received one of those catalogues designed for would be "soldiers-of-fortune" (read "mercenaries"). As I recall (and it's been some months now, so I can't be certain) it was addressed to me at the Yanco Agricultural Institute. For quite a few years now, I've only used my P.O. address, rather than the Institute, even for my scientific journals, including Scientific American, the most obvious source of addresses for a USAmerican company. That you have also received one of those catalogues makes me wonder if those responsible for them might somehow have obtained a mailing list for an old Worldcon, in the mistaken belief that all science fiction fans have the same preoccupations as Joe Haldeman. (I must admit to being intrigued, as you were, with those "all-in-one" tools.)
Your comment about "any non-fan who comments that you have a lot of books" reminds of the occasion when my landlord (an italian fanner of questionable literacy) brought our then-neighbour (another italian farmer) to see all the books that lined the walls of the room that I had set up as my study.
When I stayed with Robin and Alicia Johnson a little over ten years ago I didiYt have much time to admire their house. Robin took me on a tour of Salamanca place, but the rest of my time in Hobart was mainly occupied with attending the annual Australasian Entomological Society conference.
Travelling to and from Hobart I took my own car, travelling by ferry. In fact, the return trip was on the last trip between the mainland and Tasmania for many months, as the ferry was being sold overseas. On arriving at Devonport after a sleepless night aboard the ferry I started driving west, intending to stop for the night in Queenstown. That was the only part of my trip for which I had not booked accommodation, thinking that there would be no trouble finding a bed for the night it was, after all early winter, hardly peak tourist season. Needless to say, all accommodation in Queenstown was booked and I ended up driving, increasingly exhausted, until I reached a place called Derwent Bridge, near Lake St. Clair, which consisted of a sprawling and comfortable hotel. Unfortunately I couldnt stay in Strahan, nor visit Cradle Mountain, because I was carrying live rice bloodworm eggs to be part of an exhibit at the conference.
After the conference, though, I was able to visit the old penal settlement at Port Arthur. Very moving - a tribute to human inhumanity to their fellow humans. I then made my way up the east coast, then across to Launceston. (Parts of the road in the northeast made the road climbing out of Queenstown look like a freeway.) It rained most of the way from Launceston to Devonport, so I didnt stop for any smoked muttonbird.
Thanks again for enabling me to contact Frank and Anna Jo Denton. They took me to a local Native American pow wow, which I found very moving, especially when compared with the unhappy situation in which most the Australian aboriginals find themselves. Frank and Anna Jo also took me on one of their volsmarch trails through a local wildlife refuge, a fascinating place where I saw my first horsetails (primitive pre-flowering plants) as well as other animals and plants different from those I'd see in the Riverina.
The host of the bed'n breakfast at which I stayed in Seattle was a devout Republican, but she encouraged political debate among the guests at breakfast. She also asked me about the political system in Australia, and I confused her by referring to myself as a "small-l liberal", then had to explain that in Australia Liberals are actually conservatives. By contrast, the female partner of the couple who ran the bed'n breakfast in Maryland (from which I commuted to the Washington Mall) was an avowed Democrat, but still not what I would call a liberal. I have the feeling that these middle-class small businesspeople, successful in their own small way, were unable to appreciate the role of good luck, as well as good management, in their success.
In the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History the person in charge of the Arachnology section was absent. However, I did see my equivalent (technical officer), who was concerned with the day-to-day running of the collection, and thus a good person to know. Among the displays in the public part of the museum was a well-put-together insect "zoo", at least partly funded by a local Pest Control Operator, which even included some Oz insects. There was the inevitable section on the development of life on Earth, but not in the obvious serial fashion which displays together all the groups and environments which existed in each period. Included in this section there was a marvellous diorama displaying life-size models of some of the fauna from the dawn of multicellular animal life found in the Burgess Shale, including some of my favourites, such as Hallucigenia and Opabinia.
The displays in the National Air and Space Museum were not actually eclectric, but neither were they arranged to enable patrons to easily build up a coherent vision of the whole. In celebration of the 50th anniversity of VJ Day, most of the Enola Gay was on display, under high security, but no displays of the devastation of lives and property that resulted from the bombing, nor any doubts of the correctness of their actions in the videotaped interviews with the crew.
Most of my first day in New York was spent in the Arachnology section of the American Museum of Natural History examining the American relatives of our Mouse Spiders. I went in the next morning to look at the public displays, and ended up staying the whole day. The dinosaurs and other fossil vertebrates had well- lit, airy new displays, but the other displays, notably of invertebrates and anthropology, looked a bit dark and weary. There was a general tendency to be a bit too academic, I thought. There was no real sign of the reputed Big Apple hostility, but by the time I left the my hotel opposite the Museum each morning the morning rush seemed to be over, nor did things seem to be tense in early evening (before 8:30pm). However, I don't seem to have wandered outside the area bordered by Central Park, 83rd St., Columbus Ave. and the Tot) of Broadway.
Both inside and out, the architecture of the Natural History Museum in London was more like a cathedral than a museum. Unfortunately the Curator of Arachnology was not terribly helpful, so I had make do with just writing down the information that I could see on and in the unopened jars that contained the spiders in which I was interested. On the other hand, in terms of making information understandable by the public, the displays dealing with arthropods, dinosaurs, evolution and ecology were the best of any that I saw during the trip.
Those areas of London that I saw seemed more devoted to catering to tourists (especially those from the USA) than any place I'd seen. Perhaps that's why it seemed merely old, rather than steeped in history.
Paris was just a place to eat and lay my head, a way station between the Chunnel train from London and the TGV train to Geneva. Just as well. I don't I could have coped with much more of the horrendous racket and spine-jerking acceleration of the Paris Metro "trains".
Geneva, where the International Congress of Arachnology was held this year, was peaceful. The Congress itself was mostly useful and interesting. Mostly, that is, except for researchers who presented information on regional spider faunas by reading out long lists of names and places - very soporific.
The Museum d'Histoire Natural, where the Congress was held, has been in full operation at its present site since 1988. Some of the displays were a bit eclectic, and there was a general lack of explanetary signage, other than just the name of the animal or object.
Rome was just a way station for a foray further south, although I was pleased to see that MacDonalds had apparently had to hide itself and its signage within the colonnade of a building. As to my southward journey, I had decided to see what sort of environment had produced my landlord, who came from a little town on the toe of Italy.
A detailed map of Italy showed a railway branch line leading to the town, so I asked an english-speaking official at the booking office at the Rome terminal which train to catch. He consulted a timetable and wrote down the details for me, and the next day I caught that train. What I hadnt been told (and what I suspect the oficial in Rome didnt know) was that I had to change trains at a station several stops short of the station where the branch line went inland. So I sat at the interchange station, growing increasin ly worried. Eventually I found an official who was able to tell me on which platform, and when, the train I wanted would arrive. Eventually an ageing one-carriage railmotor pulled in, and carried me, on a line not marked on my map, to the station from which the branch line on the map appeared to start - except that none of the stations on the branch line appeared on the local train timetable. This time the booking office official I tried to ask pointed through the exit and said something about "cinquanta milli" (fifty thousand), which made no sense to me. I went through the exit, expecting a bus of some sort, but no, "cinquanta milli" turned out to be the cost in lira of the taxi fare to the town for which I was aiming.
Fortunately I was able, using a phrasebook to communicate with the taxi driver well enough for him to find the address, a restaurant (although that makes it sound grander than the reality) owned by one of my landlord's brothers. Once there I was fed an enormous plate of spaghetti and half a chook while the rest of the family were summoned. After some debate I was taken to another brother's house and given a bed. Next mornine the brother with whom I was staying drove me around the area and showed me his farms - two dry hillsides with olive trees on terraces. He and his wife provided me with meals, and next day gave me a large packed lunch and drove me back to the station to catch a train back to Rome. I was very touched by the way the family had taken me in.
I finished "Green Mars" somewhen before I left Europe, having been working on it for some time before I left home. It's certainly grand in scale, both in terms of the backdrop and ambition, and richly endowed with subplots, but I found the way in which long periods of inaction are interspersed with relatively brief periods of action irritating. The characters tend to be a bit overblown as well.
Well past my bedtime.
Gegenschein rambles on about trips I've taken to science fiction conventions (where the attendees rarely actually talk about science fiction, so it helps if you already know the fans). It also mentions a bunch of science fiction books I've read or received for review of late. Finally, there are sometimes letters from various people, and these also may not relate to science fiction, nor conventions, nor even anything in previous issues. If you don't like this, don't download it.
The Web version is written first, and an "under construction" text of this is on my World Wide Web page long before there is any paper version. The Web version may contain the full text of locs scanned in and other material that is shortened for the paper version. I realise many fans feel this is the wrong way to do fanzines. Blame the Australian postal rates. Essentially, the web version moves the distribution costs from me to the reader. Furthermore, those costs are lower (provided you already own a computer, modem, and have Internet access). I make an implicit assumption that most SF readers will (eventually) fall into this category. As an alternative, ask for the HTML text to be emailed to you.