Gegenschein 90 January 2001


We would like to remind you (yet again) to support GUFF and the other fan funds. The GUFF fan fund has enabled Jean and I to travel to the U.K. where we expect to meet with many U.K fans. We certainly hope that our contact will lead to more exchanges between our two fandoms. We have a GUFF web site at

Top of Page

Thanksgiving 2000 Trip

You can take it as given that getting from Airlie Beach to anywhere is a trip. Drive to Mackay, where we at least can have a wonderful dinner at the Coffee Club with the Kerry and Leanne Frahm. Fly to Brisbane at the crack of dawn. Overnight in Brisbane, because if you change airlines you probably can't make the connections. Fly to Sydney, change to giant 747-400, fly for 14 hours to San Francisco, get through customs, get lost in airport, fly to Seattle, wait an hour or so for the shuttle, drive for 90 minutes, and collapse at the comfortable home of Jean's mother after being awake for about 36 hours.

We had a few days to recover, without anything very urgent to do. We walked, and talked, and even mostly had good weather.


I didn't expect to attend Orycon 22 in Portland, although we were in Lacey the weekend of 17 to 19 November when it was on. I didn't even realise it was on those dates. Luckily Alan Rosenthal and Janice Murray were attending, and Janice volunteered to collect me when she went through Lacey on the Thursday evening. As was probably anticipated by all of us, Janice was somewhat later than she had hoped, and after being delayed somewhat by some spots of mist, we arrived around 11 p.m.

Lise Eisenberg, Elayne and Bruce Pelz, Vicki Rosensweig, Jon Singer, Tom Whitmore, Karen Schaefer, Mike Ward, Janice Gelb, Sharon Sbarsky, Alan Baum, Donya White, Doug Faunt who talked about radio with many others. Clifford Wind and Marilyn Holt. Can't recall who else we managed to spot in the early parts of the con. Lots of old friends.

We were staying at the Oxford Suites, a short walk away from the con hotel. Getting the room involved a return visit to the desk, and some room shuffling. Reception were having a bad evening (well, by then it was the early a.m.), however the rooms had a fridge and were very pleasant, given the relative prices. The price included a great breakfast of eggs, sausage and potato, with cereal and toast and sometimes fruit. I had so much for breakfast that I only rarely ate another meal during the day. I'm not sure Janice got there in time for breakfast more than once, but Alan and I ate there most mornings.

Back at the con, I tried out the bar overlooking the river with Lucy Huntzinger and Jerry Kaufman. Nice spot, but too much smoke for me, even though it was uncrowded early in the day.

Last time I was at the Doubletree Columbia River it rained so hard I wasn't sure a city existed anywhere near the hotel. In fact, I wasn't even sure there was a river out there. This time I could see the pleasant view, and a paddle boat moored some distance away.

Robert Forward was the science GoH. Actually there were a bunch of writers scheduled there. John Barnes, Steven Barnes, Greg Bear, Ed Bryant, Larry Niven, Jerry Oltion, Steve Perry, Mary Rosenblum, Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I spent most of my time in the fan lounge, and that seemed a fine place to meet everyone I knew. I thought Arthur did a fine job, although had he recruited some helpers it might have been easier for him. I minded the place a time or two when he went out to eat. Still, I'm sure he will make some changes next time.

The internet lounge seemed to meet a need. Lots of people using it pretty much whenever it was opened. While I didn't use it, I did check it out to get an idea of how it compared with others I had seen.

I only got into it the once (considering the breakfasts I was having), however the hospitality suite seemed to be wonderfully well organised, and have sufficient good (non-junk) food to feed armies.

The huckster's room had about four book dealers, together with many costume and armour dealers. I noticed Lady Jayne books there, and several people mentioned their Australian trip for Ausiecon THree. I spotted a few books worth considering, but failed to make it into the room a second time. Probably just as well.

I recall a panel by Janice Gelb and Sharon Sbarsky on Web Pages, and making them work for the audience. Are they promotional or informative. I thought they did a wonderful job of it, however it is obvious from much of what appears on the web that the people who think it should all be commercial are going to ignore any pleas for sanity. Their loss, since it is even easier to never visit a web page than it is to turn off a TV. I visit an average of two web sites a day (and even only two wastes far too much time), and most are so uninformative that I will never return to them. If I'm on the web at all, I'm looking for information. That might lead to a purchase, but if the information isn't there, I'm not sticking around to see what else these pages offer.

Dinner with Arthur, Alan and Janice on the last night, and I think that was the only restaurant I attended.

Back to Lacey

To Lacey on the Monday via back roads, aided by Alan's sense of how to get almost anywhere. A great Mt St Helen's view, plus a fine walk on a boardwalk over marshland at the visitor center. With Alan navigating, and Janice identifying wildlife it was a most informative time.

We collected Jean and her mother and had dinner at Red Lobster. Janice has been telling Jean's mother about lots of mystery writers, and she had managed to get several of the books mentioned on a previous visit.

Jean's mother had mentioned the computer courses she had taken, so when we went walking over the next few days, Jean and I made our walks a bit of a computer search. Found cheapish second hand models at Computer Renaissance. Then came the Thanksgiving sales notices. There was an eMachines model at Office Depot with about nine rebates on offer, and that certainly looked worth checking.

Jean's sister Barb and husband Ted arrived for Thanksgiving. Within minutes of their arrival the house was full of sound and partying, as seems always the case. Soon enough it was also full of cooking and much groaning afterwards as we tried to fit even more turkey into already packed bodies.

Computer Literacy

Next day the five of us went to Office Depot, where Jean's mother got her first computer. I'm not sure we appeared all that much help. After starting to set up the computer, we returned the next day to get a computer desk that Ted and I assembled (I think it needed an engineer). Then we returned to get the correct cable for the printer (the box said it was parallel, but it actually was USB). Barb and Ted had to return to work after the weekend, but we stayed. Then we returned to Office Depot to get a book explaining it all. To our utter astonishment there wasn't any sort of manual with the computer - Jean eventually wrote her mother a startup manual, complete with screen dumps.

On the Tuesday before we left had a free dinner Jean's mother won at the Panorama City restaurant. Despite various reports, it wasn't too bad. I suspect its real problem is that it would like to go further upmarket, however there are so many good cheap restaurants in the USA that this isn't one of the options, and a stand alone restaurant finds it hard to compete against the franchise places.

Silicon Valley

10 am Wednesday, and we were off on the slow trip to California, with our United flight late, so we missed the CalTrain by minutes, and didn't reach San Jose until well after 7 that evening.

Mike and Karen fed us a great chicken and asparagus dinner. The wine was Critique of Pure Reisling (which provoked the obvious deKant and other jokes). Janice Gelb couldn't make it, and we never did hear if Stephen Boucher had ever turned up in town.

Thursday we discovered Dwarf (as per Terry Pratchett DiskWorld novels) cherry bread (not adding yeast will do that, but it was very late in the evening when the ingredients were added). Karen took me on a Trader Joe visit. That was wonderful. I'd heard so much about them from Don Fitch (and eaten so many of their products at affairs where Don had assisted in feeding the multitudes). Maybe they need to add Arnott's bikies to their range? They had really nice dried cherries (and I decided to look for some back home, but never did find any).

Japanese for dinner, and even the smaller dish exceeded my capacity, although it was very tasty. Jean is more into that than I am, so it was even more a treat for her. Alyson couldn't make it to dinner.

Mike showed me many wonderful magazine covers, from the thousands he has recovered from the Internet. These will eventually be online at I'm sure a lot of fans will really appreciate the way covers we might otherwise have never seen are being preserved.

Friday was a relaxed day. Walk by the water, watching the birds.

I visited an auction house with Karen where we caught up with Mike, and then Software and Stuff, and Frys with Mike. I bought a cheap pocket modem at Software and Stuff, to replace my dead external modem on my computer at home (it failed to work - sob). Unfortunately, I couldn't find much of interest at Frys, although I was pleased to note a variety of Firewire devices were available. Unfortuntely there were even more of those idiotic USB devices on display, so I imagine once again the bad will exclude the good in the marketplace (like VHS and Beta, IDE and SCSI).

Lucy Huntzinger couldn't make it for dinner. Started to feel like Typhoid Mary opening a fast food joint.

We went over to Spike Parson's place, where we feasted on good pizza, and made a lot of party noise. We showed our trip pictures, and tried to sing the Bundaberg Rum song. Jean says we should take the words of Australian drinking songs with us to the UK on our GUFF trip. Maybe we need to take recordings, considering our performance.

Tom Becker showed me the software development tools running on a modern Macintosh portable. It was an impressive machine, and the integrated development environment looked a very clean way to do C++ programming, with lots of help in writing code. Certainly a long way ahead of the command line environment I use in flash and GUI. However I am equally sure that none of these neat environments get around the learning curve of getting a real grasp of an API.

Saturday. Karen and Mike were out at a fair, promoting Karen's Elegant Table jams.

Spike collected me and took me out walking up a large hill in some nice bushland, and past a small farm substitute. Some great views along the way. We tried to find Tom at Apple, and having failed then had a meal at Good Earth. Spike sure knows some fine places to eat.

Pensfa party tonight at Alan and Donya's place. We were able to catch up with Lucy Huntzinger, and John Bartlet, Bill Humphries, Ctein, Julie Humphries hiding in the woman's cabal, Rich McAllister, but didn't catch up with Linda McAllister. Lucy said we should ask her about travel for GUFF before she moved jobs. Of course, we failed to follow through.

John D Berry and Elaine Gunn talked about Infinite Matrix and the new web magazine. Great layout and authors in the sample issue, but when last I checked the net I still didn't see it online.

David and Andrea Evans were there, providing Australian wines. It was good to see them both again. David very kindly offered to give us a ride to the airport next day.

On Sunday Jean and I went for another walk, finally. Mike and Karen were at another fair for much of the day, and also preparing for a party that evening. David Evans came over early, so we actually had time for a pleasant unhurried talk, for the first time in years. He was looking spectacularly fit, in training for another marathon, and picked up our 90 pound of luggage without showing any sign it weighed anything! Very unlike our treatment of it.

Airport, and the long flight home. We decide to get fit (pause for raucous laughter from audience). This decision made while sitting on cushy business class seats, thanks to our upgrade on points. It would have more credibility had we been seated in the back of the plane, and not quaffing champagne.


We had another overnight in Brisbane, since you can't make the connections in one day. During our visit to the nearby mall, we saw Flight Center (cheaper than average travel bookings, commended by internationl traveller Robin Johnson for giving travel agents a bit of competition). They were more helpful than the local travel agents. We decided we would start arranging our GUFF air tickets on the spot. We didn't think we would do any better finding cheap prices in isolation up at Airlie Beach. We already knew we weren't getting the best rates going via the airline web sites, which was how we had done our previous tickets.

And so home, having arranged to spend a fortune on yet more travel!

Top of Page

Power Outages

First time in months (probably since the new connection to the area).

Personalised Nike

If you buy a personalised pair of Nike (via their web site), try asking for them to be personalised with "sweatshop". Academic Jonah Peretti tried it, and found Nike were reluctant to accept this harmless word. I'd say 62 cents an hour qualified.

Good Diet

I was amused to learn the Dieticians Association of Australia now raise almost as much from sponsorship by food producers as from their membership fees. Sponsors include Australian Dairy Corporation, Kelloggs, Nestle, and Sanitarium. Do they recommend cereal with milk? What do you think?

Display Space

My display was 245mm x 185mm, but Windows took 12mm off one side and 10mm the other. Then the browser took it down to 237mm x 132, and the advertising on the site to 237 x 100, and then the navigation buttons down to 215mm x 90mm. So from over 450 square cm, the area I can use to read things goes down to less than 195 square cm. Thank goodness my browser will optionally use the entire display and get rid of some of this crap!

Web Shopping

I try to do all my buying from Australian owned businesses, and as far as possible from local producers, so as to retain money in the local community where I can benefit from having services available. Being somewhat remote, that isn't one of the option here for some technogadgets.

Around Xmas, I decided it was time to look for a decent price for a replacement for my three year old pocket computer. The display was giving me trouble in all but really decent lighting, but I didn't want to cope with the weight of a laptop while travelling. I was looking for a Psion 7, as that came closest to doing what I wanted. So, no market checking required. Just price and buy.

I already knew that Harvey Norman had a web site, but expected you to visit their store to buy (Geoff Harvey is very cynical about the web). Dick Smith no longer seemed to stock Psion, and their web site showed old models thousands of kilometers away. PAWS mail order had put their prices up about 35% for reasons that weren't clear (they were formerly pretty competitive). Some of the phone stores sell Psion, although not the model I wanted, but I'm hanged if I know where to find them on the web.

About the only store I knew in Australia that actually used the Psion machines was Duncan Schultz's Total Data Capture. OK, so the company runs out of a bungalow at Mudjimba Beach (see Geg 86), which doesn't argue for a major support infrastructure, but at least they really know what they are selling.

As usual these days with web sites, I had trouble. The site isn't HTML compliant (but what is), uses a heap of graphics for navigation (I have graphics turned off due to the slow connections here) and I couldn't actually get at the pages that included the prices and purchasing information probably due to scripting problems. I turned to an older technology, and emailed them. No response.

So I joined a couple of on-line auctions. Found a good price on one. Location of the vendor - Romania. Hmm, maybe I'll pass on that. Found another as a unwanted prize, but the price went too high, and the last minute bidding too quick for me.

Xmas and New Year passed, and about a week later I got an email from Total Data Capture. Remember them? They were back from holidays, and going through their email. They had a shop demo model at a price I liked, so I arranged to get that (by email and fax, since I still couldn't get into the money side of their web site credit card handler).

Next thing I checked on the web was a bar code scanner and an infra red adaptor for my old motherboard. What a surprise. I couldn't get into the prices section of Mgram computers website, which was also not HTML compliant. So I emailed them, and they promptly sent me some PDF files of their pamphlets. I'm still thinking about those gadgets, although if I'd been able to get straight in to the web site I'd have ordered the IrDA connector right away (I bought it later - by fax).

Upgrading my Psion 7 was next on my list, and that I couldn't do in Australia. Expansys were the cheapest overseas vendor I could find with the memory upgrade and a spare battery, and my first attempt to order from their site silently failed to work. Next try, I could get prices, and I could tell them what I wanted. I couldn't pay for it on site. For that I had to fax them, along with a copy of my credit card and drivers licence. I could do that from a computer, but it is easier to just run a piece of paper through a fax machine.

With an overseas trip, I needed an international power supply. I have no idea why the Psion doesn't come with one, as in some countries it does (at least sometimes). Couldn't find one with all the features I wanted and the compact size I also wanted amongst the Psion dealers, so I emailed ten different notebook computer dealers listed in Computer Trader who appeared to offer parts. Three replied, all in the negative.

So I looked up an obsolete paper catalog, and found what semed a suitable model. The Australian designed SSL40 model from Amtex in Sydney. Their web site was also a bit of a pain, but I could download their PDF pamphlet, but not a price. When I emailed them, they emailed me a PDF of the same pamphlet (which is a level 1.3 PDF and not fully readable except with the latest version of the genuine Adobe Reader). Ordering by fax worked.

Sandisk sent me a press release about their latest half gigabyte Compact Flash. Their web site also wasn't HTML compliant, and I couldn't get into their on-line order section to see what the prices were. To add insult, the return address on their email was bounced by their own server.

Still that reminded Jean we needed a compact flash for the digital camera. So I tried the Australian flashmemory site. It had a lot of scripting on it, and no alt labels on the navigation button, so if you didn't have graphics on navigation was difficult. However they had some nice pages, which even included the prices. Unfortunately, when you try to order, you find lots of pages were redirected elsewhere. After filling multiple forms, the buying pages failed to work. What an immense surprise!

So far the score is Internet shopping zero, frustration with web sites almost infinite, interest in viewing another web site totally negative. No wonder the web sales sites are going broke.

Are Books Still Good Value

I saw one of those lists of what we paid in the 1970's for various items. Bread was $1.40 ($2.50), milk 48 cents a litre ($1.50), eggs $1.14 ($2), steak $6 a kilogram ($12), postage stamps 20 cents (45 cents). However a newspaper was 10 cents ($1.10), and a paperback book $1.25 ($16.95). How did all the farm producers get so much more efficient, while publishers simply raised prices?

Perhaps in the interests of economic rationalism, all the surviving farm producers are now raising their cattle on meat scraps, and turning their sheep into meat eaters, so we can have here the same sort of disasterous farming problems that appear to have struck Britain. I don't think so however.

Perhaps with book publishers being consumed by giant organisations, intent on the bottom line and return on investment, profits will rise and prices will drop. I don't think so however.

Given the journeymanlike quality of printing in most fiction, I don't see that we really need to bulk print and then distribute most books. The content is mostly intellectual, and the appearance can be handled by standard methods.

I think electronic books could take off. Not because they are a pleasure to read, because they are not. Present displays are simply inferior to paper. However they could sell on price. Everyone gets told that money is everything these days, and so as consumers we all seek bargains.

Authors are already required to provide a computer readable copy, thus eliminating typesetters. If there is outside proofreading being done I'd be very surprised. I think the authors handle this now. Yet their percentage is still much the same as it ever was.

I know that booksellers get a pretty good percentage of the cover price. A good knowledgable bookseller is a treasure. However they are also scarce, and I suspect getting scarcer. If a bookseller is simply a warehouse of books, where is the value they add?

I'll mention that Amazon add value just like a good bookseller, in that they recommend other books, based upon your buying record, and the buying records of others who have bought the books you are buying. It isn't the same as a knowledgeable bookseller, but the effects are often strikingly similar.

The direct costs of establishing a web site are several hundred dollars a year. A typical web site can contain several hundred books. What does that say about small scale publishing costs? Disk space of course now costs almost nothing. Under a cent a megabyte (several books per megabyte). Communication costs are much higher, up to 20 cents a megabyte perhaps. Paypal and Braindock and other electronic fund transfer concerns take typically 10-15% for doing their stuff (and that will drop).

I notice several midlist SF authors with a half dozen or so books to their name have their own web sites, and are selling books, both remaindered physical books of their, and their own work in electronic form. If you have a backlist, it isn't that much more costly to add a website.

What do I think that means for publishing? I think traditional publishers better start thinking about a world in which a novel costs the consumer $2.50 or less over the internet, and the author gets 50% or so of the price.

The value that publishers add is partly in their selection of books, partly in organising the printing, partly in organising the distribution of books, and partly in publicising the books. However the internet can eliminate the middle two, and these are the most costly two.

What things do I value about publishers? I don't give a lot of value to the name of the publisher, although it can be a useful guide. What I have learnt to trust is the names of certain editors inside a book cover. I know that if David Hartwell or a few others have their name associated with a book, and especially if they recommend it, or have worked with the author, then I will be getting quality. I may not like the book, but I won't feel cheated.

What publishers do is select books to be published. However we can clearly see that books can now be published without a publisher. So my value from a publisher comes from the editorial process, the selection.

So would I pay for a monthly email newsletter from a trusted editor, listing his or her choices from the books available on the internet? I do believe I would.

Top of Page

Book Reviews

Return to Mars by Ben Bova

Eos (Harper Collins), July 2000, 543pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0380797259

The second Mars expedition takes Navajo geologist Jamie Waterman back to Mars with a team where ambition may bring conflict, and fear of the unnown may bring errors that can threaten everyone on the voyage. Meanwhile on Earth, a third expedition can only take place if the potential for tourism and virtual reality sales can be realised and start making a profit. The expedition follows the plans of Zubrin's Mars Direct ideas of living off the land, generating fuel from Martian resources.

The Line Ahead by Stephen Bright

Catalyst, 1996, 306pp, ISBN 0724275371

Novel in the form of linked stories set in the near future, about the future of rail travel in Queensland, and the nature of the organisation and people required to run it. Written at the request of Queenland Rail to assist them in thinking about the future. Interesting and unusual.

A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold

Earthlight, 2000, 405pp, #6.99, ISBN 0743408292

Miles has a cunning plan to get Ekaterin, Mark has a cunning plan (but it involves food as well), and several other groups all have their own plans. Well written novel with much ado about nothing. Bujold's work is usually only marginal SF, but she certainly can spin a good story, as shown by the number of Hugos she had won.

Dark Legacy by Cory Daniells

Bantam (Random House), July 2000, 419pp, A$18.60, ISBN 1863251456

Book Two of the T'en Trilogy. Fantasy romance. More on the author formerly at

Teranesia by Greg Egan

Eos, Nov 2000, 338pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0061059803

I don't know what to make of this. I wasn't convinced by the hand waving around the genetics by which evolution stopped making sense, but it was a neat idea. The story is of two young people growing up on a remote island with their biologist parents. There is a tragic accident and the parents are killed.

Twenty years later the younger sister returns to the island with a study team, and her protagonist brother feels he has to make his way there also. We discover that nothing about the original tragedy, or about the genetics are what they seem. Very much an attempt at a lot more of a character study than Egan usually attempts, but very interesting.

When Egan fails, it is because he attempts too much, rather than for any other reason ... and isn't that what SF is all about? Besides, I'm not sure he failed.

The Forbidden Land by Kate Forsyth

Arrow (Random House), 2000, 467pp, A$19.60 ISBN 1740510216

Book Four of The Witches of Eileanas. Fantasy with a bored young thief in high places needed to save the day. Author's web site is at

Luci In The Sky by Chris Fox

Hutchinson (Random House), Mar 2001, pp, A$27.95, ISBN 009179387

Fast paced and not very realistic industrial espionage adventure, with the commercial spy being blackmailed by the beautiful inventor to get back the LUCI computer stolen from her, and now controlling the latest spy plane about to be sold to the US Government. The author is a flyer, and most of the action scenes are pretty good, and it certainly is fast paced. If you are into that sort of high tech novel, you could do worse.

The Chick is in the Mail edited by Esther Friesner

Baen, Oct 2000, 314pp, US$6.99, ISBN 0671319507

Fourth in the short story anthologies on the themes of bad puns and worse sendups. No, I mean women warriors. There must be something about this idea that brings out the best in writers, because I can't recall a marginal story in the series. If you take your fantasy seriously, then you probably aren't in the audience, but the rest of us can have a great time reading these gems.

Hero in the Shadows by David Gemmell

Bantam (Random House), Nov 2000, 446pp, A$17.50 UK9.99 ISBN 0552146749

Ancient demons about to be unleased upon the land, when the spells that exile them start to fade. Lone assassin Waylander is joined by a a samurai like swordsman and a mystic to battle, etc. For all that the story is silly and tired, Gemmell at least gives his main characters some depth and some feeling in this novel, which is thankfully short for high fantasy. Not to my taste, but not badly written.

The Wild Machines by Mary Gentle

EOS (HarperCollins), August 2000, 391pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0380811138

The Book of Ash, part 3. A very interesting realistic fantasy, in an alternate world that could be our 14th Century. Except two women commanders of armies hear voices in their heads from strategy machines, and the sun is turning off. Except Carthage stands, and its Visigoth troops are about to overrun all Europe, with only the sunlit culture of Burgundy holding out. I don't like fantasy, but I recommended reading these books.

The Trigger by Arthur C Clarke and Michael P Kube-McDowell

Bantam, 1999, 626pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0533576208

Young scientists at a thinktank accidentally come up with a device that detonates ammunition and bombs at a distance. We follow the consequences.

Didn't I see the same plot in an ancient Murray Leinster novel?

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

Corgi (Random House), Nov 2000, 460pp, A$17.50 ISBN 0552146161

Apropos of Aussiecon Three in Ethel the Aardvark, Kevin Delany mentioned meeting Terry Pratchett for the first time (in the bar with the rest of the Brits, naturally), and finding that he is looking more and more like one of his Discworld characters. This has nothing to do with a review of the book, but it is pretty well impossible to review a Pratchett book anyway.

Sam Vimes, of the City Watch, is reluctantly off on a diplomatic mission to Uberwald, where there is trouble (and crime) within the realm of the dwarves. Unfortunately werewolves are prowling around stirring up trouble, and they are sniffing at Vimes' trail. Don't ask about the relevance of the elephant, or its byproducts.

The Truth by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday (Random House), Nov 2000, pp, A$43.85 ISBN 0385601026

William de Worde forms the first newspaper in Ankh-Morpork, after the dwarfs decide a printing press would be a good idea. However the power of the press isn't always to the liking of the establishment, especially when there is a plot to discredit the Patrician. Add a vampire as an dedicated experimental flash photographer ... not a great choice of occupation when you are allergic to light!

A real romp, full of horrible puns, as usual.

The Martiansby Kim Stanley Robinson

Bantam, Oct 2000, 434pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0553574019

Return to Robinson's Mars, with a variety of short stories and fragments, pieces of the same characters as the novels, and unrelated musings. I think this one is probably for those who have to read everything, but there are some nice pieces in it, despite my lack of enthusiasm.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J K Rowling

Scholastic, Sept 1999, 309pp, US$6.99, ISBN 059035342X

Orphen Harry Potter is desperately unhappy growing up with his mundane relatives (think Cinderella). Then an invitation comes for him to go to Hogwarts, a school for wizards, for Harry is the son of wizards, and is expected to become a great wizard himself. Talk about wish fulfillment.

This plays on all the secret wishes of youngsters. Well enough written, and with sympathetic characters and loads of childhood adventures. Little wonder it has done well. While it isn't to my taste, I'm in favour of anything that gets children reading.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling

Scholastic, Sept 2000, 341pp, US$6.99, ISBN 0439064872

The magic continues, with Harry (mostly sort of accidentally) breaking rules all over the place, as his friends discover the chamber of secrets holds a deadly piece of the past history of Harry's deadly enemy. But can a piece of the past threaten the present Harry?

You just bet it can. More childhood adventures.

Darth Mall: Shadow Hunter by Michael Reaves

Century (Random House), March 2001, 305pp, A$44.95 ISBN 0712684174

Very fast paced chase adventure, set just prior to the events of The Phantom Menace. Lorn Pavan and his droid partner will sell anything, but luck has turned against them. However their newest piece of of information could set them up for a killing. Meanwhile, Darth Sidious tells his mingling Darth Maul to get the information back, so Maul is interested in making a killing. Mix in a Jedi padawan on her first assignment. The author wrote scripts for the animated Batman series, and certainly knows how to do a fast paced bit of work.

Borderland of Science by Charles Sheffield

Baen, Nov 2000, 405pp, US$6.99 ISBN 067131953

How to think like a scientist and write science fiction. A survey of interesting boundaries of modern science along with lots of story ideas (I always thought story ideas came from a garage in Buffalo).

Greenhouse Summer by Norman Spinrad

Tor, Sept 2000, 311pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812566564

Pollution, climate change and ecological disasters are the normal condition. Paris has a summer climate, and the big industrial conglomerates are owned by citizen shareholders, some of whose methods and morals are more akin to those of a crime syndicate.

The UN is holding yet another climate conference, but this time it is high cost, and in Paris. Where did they manage to afford it? Is it the last gasp effort of the unofficial Big Blue Machine, trying to move from an impoverished third world clientel, or is Earth about to plunge into Venus greenhouse mode. Profit can not longer be the deciding factor in how the protagonists evaluate the game. But what if no-one knows the truth?

More plot twists, and some great dialogue and scenes. Spinrad is still one of the most accomplished stylists working in the SF area. Read this one.

Drakas! edited by S M Stirling

Baen, Nov 2000, 364pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0671319469

Collection of short stories by diverse authors set in Stirling's Draka universe. Probably more for completists. I thought Stirling covered his ground in the first three novels, and didn't need to do a fourth.

Evergence The Dying Light by Sean Williams and Shayne Dix

Ace, July 2000, 420pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0441007422

Great old fashioned fast paced space opera, with lots of mysteries and plots zipping all over the place. Have the genetically enhanced Sol Wunderkind super soldiers appeared again, how can whole planets disappear, and what does the AI intend?

Bios by Robert Charles Wilson

Tor, Nov 2000, 214pp, US$6.99 ISBN 081257574

Zoe Fisher customised for the deadly but potentially valuable planet Isis by Devices and Personnel Division of the ruling Trusts, themselves fighting a beaurocratic battle with other divisions. Scientists were mostly from the Kuiper republic, and were not trusted by any side. Exploring Isis involves protecting against biological enemies that mutate and change rapidly, destroying any contamination isolation eventually. Has a nice sense a wonder touch towards the end.

The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young

Warner Aspect, Sept 2000, 348pp, US$6.50 ISBN 0446607991

An alien race reaches across the cosmos, seeking other lifeforms. However its method, knowledge encrypted in a virus, goes wrong. The pandemic kills billions at random, while others are immune, and yet others are reborn seeking to explore the Universe. Interesting novel.

The Web by various authors

Millenium, 1999, 568pp, #5.99 ISBN 1857985990

Six linked novellas for youngsters about gaming and the future net. Authors are Stephen Baxter, Stephen Bowkett, Eric Brown, Graham Joyce, Peter F Hamilton, Maggie Fury.

A science fiction fanzine from Eric Lindsay.

Snail mail accumulates at PO Box 640, Airlie Beach, Qld 4802 Australia, and then leaps out unexectedly and pulps us when we return home after an interval away. My mobile number (in the unlikely event I'm in range) is 0409 434 293 Please send any messages for us via email (although we may be out of reach of the phone system at times - and just when will data enabled Globalstar be available, if ever?)