Gegenschein 59 December 1990


Lots of locs this issue, which is a decided change for me. I gave up locs, and art, and other outside contributions once, because I was pissed off at the number of complaints. The complaints continue, this time mostly regarding my comments on Sydney conventions, and Worldcon plans. I still don't see any reason to change my stance about Sydney, but read all about that inside. Of course, the response rate may be due to injudicious non-editing on my part, but it may be that the response rate really has perked up. Whatever the reason, I'm sort of pleased to see it. Now, if I could get the typing done elsewhere somehow, it would be even better. I'll look into that.

Postage has gone up, as expected. Lots of readers will be getting this issue via apas. Overseas readers look like having to wait until Jean and I can co-ordinate a joint mailing of our fanzines. The alternatives are to cut the mailing list, or spend so much on postage that I decide it isn't worth it and fold. None are attractive, but apas and joint mailings seem the best that we can easily come up with.

Email via USENET is occupying a certain amount of my time; if you want fanzines sent you that way, email me. Yes, I know Chuq got there first. (But he never had a microfiche edition, did he?) *

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Early August was an extremely busy time for me, mostly semi involuntarily. In one solitary, unnatural, never to be repeated week; social events, holiday planning, fanzine production, computer zines, birthdays, rushed jobs, natural disasters, and the end of Western Civilisation. Well, actually, I was joking about the end of the world, but then Iraq invaded Kuwait, and I began to wonder!

Jean's parents

Jean's parents stayed for a week at Ryde, after touring Australia, prior to their return to the USA, so there were a few more social dinners than is usual for us. It wouldn't take many social events to be more than our norm! In particular, and to my great delight, we were once again able to dine at Il Vicolo, the superb Italian restaurant in Ryde we had discovered during their first stay with us. I particularly enjoyed the hazelnut coated turkey breast, stuffed with avocado and cheese wrapped in ham, and served with cranberry sauce. I may never get to the rest of the menu at this rate.

To add to the social activites, we were to leave on holidays on my mother's birthday, so it seemed wise to get in a celebration dinner before then. The only day available was the Saturday Jean's parents leave. So Jean is taking her parents to the airport, collecting the cat, and driving up to Faulconbridge. At which time we have to arrange to mail the 400 fanzines on hand. I doubt she will get much done that day!

Support your local Post Office

The local Post Office gave two days notice that their mail count started on Monday. Since I have no wish to contribute to the closing of the convenient and friendly `non-official' local office, I decided some hasty magazines mailings were in order, to `boost' their official throughput.

Gegenschein 58 was almost written, as was my Applix computer newsletter *Peripheral 13. This short notice pushed me into rushing them to completion, doing some 5700 photocopies during the week, as well as collation, stapling, enveloping and the rest. I'm sure there are numerous address errors, and probably some issues not sent to the intended recipient. I'll take care of that Real Soon Now.

Certainly some locs I'd intended to use weren't typed, as I couldn't find time to do the extra two pages. The layout, which looked so fine in preview, also had a few problems. I use a different version of the word processor at home, and the spacing of the printed version was a little different to what was intended. That explains some of the otherwise strange white spaces in Gegenschein 58, as well as missing lines on some sub-titles. I tell you, they all lined up properly when I prepared it, but I just didn't have time to discover what had gone wrong when the printed version turned out different.

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Mailing list

For the past two issues, the mailing list has been a midden heap of fannish history. It is about to the overturned. From this issue, if I haven't heard from you (fanzine, loc, email, phonecall or whatever) during the year, you will be dropped from my mailing list. Sorry about that, but the mailing costs, even seamail, are somewhat steeper than I like. They were steeper than I liked when I mailed last issue; since I started typing this issue, postage on overseas issues has increased by almost 50%, so Jean and I will be looking carefully at the overseas mailing costs. Besides, collating extra copies of zines isn't my favourite hobby.

At about this point, I can stick in some statistics, which reflect Jean's set of address labels. (Why am I bothering to do this?)

I sent 110 copies to the USA, 30 to the UK, 13 to Canada, 7 to New Zealand, and 6 to other overseas destinations. These 166 copies tend to show the English language bias of the mailing list.

Within Australia, 25 went to NSW, 27 to Victoria, 11 to WA, 4 to SA, 4 to ACT, 2 to Tasmania, and a lonely one to Qld (are there any fanzine fans in Qld?), making 74 within Australia. For weeks afterwards, there are various odd issues sent out as I discover problems with the mailing list.


OK, after the build up I gave when starting this issue, I guess a rain flooded ground floor doesn't really qualify. But I tell you, when it happens the weekend before you are due to go on holidays, it is a right pain in the arse. I believe everything is now either dry, getting dry, or located where the next heavy rainfall can't cause problems. This belief is not due to any good reason; it is just that it feels better than believing, more realistically, the worst!

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Window on Work

I'm fairly pissed off with my job at the moment, mostly because I'm the wrong person to do the sort of thing they want to have done these days. As a consequence, I'm keeping my eye out for other work, for when I decide I want out. It isn't so much a matter of not being able to get things working, as not being sufficiently interested in running junk to do what I consider a good job.

The School is expanding its use of IBM clones on every desk. Unfortunately, I hate and loath the segmented architecture Intel chips used in IBM clones. Use of PC clones means everyone gets to use Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system, which I consider barely out of the Dark Ages, and too broken for human use. In general, I consider this combination of products has set personal computing innovation back about a decade. As an idiotic device, the IBM PC sits on a par with designing non-polarised sockets for electrical connectors, or conventional (positive to negative - that is, the wrong way) current flow. Just because the rest of the world does things wrong doesn't mean one should, lemming like, leap down the slippery slope after them. Those not into computers may consider this all a form of religious intolerance on my part.

When I joined the School, it was to repair equipment, install new stuff, and similar high tech handyman chores. Now, if the computers are interesting enough, like Unix for example, then I don't mind playing with them as well. I don't regard IBM PC clones as interesting, although I'm willing to repair them, and set up software on them, and that is all stuff you can do in your sleep. I am not interested in seeking out and grokking great slabs of detailed stuff about their warped interior arrangements, miriad inconsistent video boards, nor about their obsolete operating system.

Now the School (and the University) wants to set up a new student laboratory, full of 386SX PC clones. It wants to run them all as diskless workstations in a local area network from a Novell Netware 2.15 server. On top of this, they want to use Microsoft Windows 3, which makes a PC clone look something like a bad imitation of a Macintosh, on all of the new machines. It may even be possible to make this combination work; I don't believe it will work particularly well however.

Now, most of these are obvious choices, and certainly are not in any sense wrong. It is merely exccedingly messy, and prone to a variety of tedious little problems, best solved by someone who is really hot on Novell and Windows. That isn't me; I devoutly wish both products would go away.

If you already have a bunch of PC clones, then the 386SX provides a potential expansion path, which XT and AT systems do not. It gives some chance of holding off obsolesence for a few years.

If you must have a local area network, then Novell owns most of the market, and looks like continuing to do so for at least a few more years. Besides, they gave us a free copy. Once you actually manage to get it all working, it is certainly reliable enough. (Apart from some infrequent random crashes, being an absolute pain to set up, and having some strange bugs in its printing facilities.) However, to get excellent results, you need to have someone willing to spend time fine tuning it. In fact, you really need someone who knows the internal workings of the thing, especially when it comes to the boot code in ROM.

If you insist on having a wimp interface, Windows 3 is probably as good as they come in the IBM world. It is certainly a lot better than the older versions, and even (mostly) manages some background processing. Let's not mention that Microsoft have been pushing Windows since December 1983, have a twenty million dollar advertising budget, and it still isn't as functional, nor as consistent, as the Macintosh. Well, I didn't like it in December 1983, and I haven't changed my mind.

Now, I personally find that the Macintosh wimp interface drives me to hair tearing frustration within minutes, because I can't do the things I want to do using it. Stuff that takes seconds in Unix seems to take hours of mousing round on the Mac, on the vary rare occasions I've used one. Ken Ozanne tells me this is because I want to do things my way, instead of the Mac way, and because of the lack of proper disk space. He is probably correct that a Mac user wouldn't find it so annoying. This is fine if you like that sort of thing, but I hate exclusively window type interfaces. I want to have access to a command line, to properly devised wildcards, and to a programmable shell command language. The Macintosh doesn't have any of these, and I hate not having them.

MS-DOS doesn't really have the things I want either, although it obviously has the command line. Wildcards are broken, since they depend on which MS-DOS utility you happen to be running (check the difference between dir * and copy * if you don't believe me). The batch language needs a lot of kludges if you want to do anything fancy. I could add more. If you add enough utilities, and TSRs, you can even make most of these things work correctly. (I add, parenthetically, that the homebrew Applix I favour already does all these correctly, and includes full pre-emptive multitasking.)

Windows doesn't improve any of this; it just sits on top of the whole mess, and adds a form of multitasking, and lots of pretty displays. In fact, I'm really staggered Microsoft ever got it working as well as it does; it is an amazing piece of work, considering the horrible starting point. There are obviously some really talented programmers out there working on some of these products.

However, to run Windows properly, from the end users point of view, you need to spend time setting it up to suit what you do. On a diskless workstation, that isn't really practical. Under network circumstances, the person using it has little real control of how it is set up. It is probably going to look somewhat painful, and run even worse, unless someone does set it up correctly. When it is all supposed to run on a mixture of XTs and 386SX, running diskless, with five different types of bios, and four or five different video cards, with boards being swapped whenever there is a breakdown, you have problems even identifying which machine you are currently running on.

Overall, the prospect of wasting weeks mousing round trying to get this unholy mess working really nicely simply doesn't appeal. The whole concept of windows is so far from my own viewpoint that I simply want nothing to do with it. I can't see it providing any advantages, while I can see it occupying a vast amount of resources. This is not the right attitude to have in someone who is supposed to be installing that stuff.

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Holiday in North Queensland

On Tuesday, Jean phoned me midmorning at work, to tell me she was able to get some time off starting the following week. "Go to the travel agent and book two discount flights, 8th August out, return on 22nd August," she said. It was only as I was putting down the phone that I remembered to ask where we were going.

We had been talking about taking a holiday in September. However I couldn't get away then because Martin, our programmer and resident Unix guru at work, was presenting a paper at a medical conference in Denmark and would be away all month. I thought we had settled on holidaying in October ... I also thought it was to be at Airlie Beach, but Jean decided Townsville instead.

The flights are a 45% off deal, where the airline doesn't tell you until the day before exactly which flight you are taking. To make things more interesting, we haven't made bookings for when we get there, but were relying on the reported oversupply of tourist facilities following the pilots strike.

We taxied from Jean's place to the airport on 8th August, this being easier (albeit more expensive) than chasing buses, and had an uneventful flight to Townsville, with a brief stopover at Brisbane airport (whoppee do!) Luckily, the airport hijack detector didn't spot the collection of edged weapons (imitation Swiss Army knife etc.) I'd accidently left in my carry bag.

We stayed at the Beach House, overlooking the beach at Townsville, as recommended by Jean's parents, and quickly discovered an assortment of eating houses round the corner. You have to get your priorities right when on holidays. I sometimes think Jean's priority is food. (I of course, am much more sensible, and spotted the two pubs and bottle shop in the same street!)

Wandered round Jean's old haunts next day, finding much had changed in sixteen years. I was very impressed by the 2700 Omnimax cinema at Barrier Reef Wonderland and museum, and took the opportunity to view some films during our visit. This was the first time I'd been to a Fleet Omnimax since 1978 in San Diego. Jean also discovered her friend Sue Hutchinson worked at the aquarium in the complex, and arranged a dinner with them. To Jean's disgust, I discovered I hadn't brought sufficient books with me, and sought out some more (this was apart from reading the ones Jean had brought).

We hired a Budget car, a pleasant but tiny Mazda 121 with a sun roof funtop, much cheaper without air conditioning, and headed south to the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), where Jean had worked soon after she first arrived in Australia. One of Jean's former colleagues spotted her as we walked in the door, so as well as the official guided tour for visitors, we got to talk with their computer section, and see through the electronics workshops. Upon returning to Townsville, I also managed to fit in a visit to James Cook University computer centre, where it was abundently obvious that the traditional EDP mentality was about to be blown away by the winds of change.

Mostly however, we headed north at a leisurely pace, stopping wherever there was a pleasant looking seaside town, and taking boat trips to various islands, where we would walk, or sit round in the shade beside a beach reading. We ate a lot of coral trout and barramundi. Couple of tours on Hinchenbrook Island, a nicely undeveloped hiking spot, walking across a narrow portion of it, plus the mangrove boardwalk.

Cairns appeared to me overdeveloped, sprawling and ugly, but that impression was based on an hour passing through; we didn't bother to stop. Jean correctly points out that this assessment is unfair. At Port Douglas we avoided the fancy expensive resort, and stayed at an older motel near the village, where we could wander along the beach in the evening. We drove the dusty road to Cape Tribulation, about as far as you could get north without a four wheel drive. One fun event was spotting Lync Haven, and deciding we must mention it to Melbourne fan LynC.

Boring! By 16th August, a mere eight days into our holiday, I was bored. I'd read every book I'd brought, every book Jean had brought, even read a Unix System Administration book, couldn't find anything else in the bookshop, and was starting to wish I'd brought the massive Writing C Compilers I'd originally planned to read on holidays. I was sitting round redesigning circuit boards, and wishing I could find a chip data book. This was a bad sign while on holidays. Maybe I've forgotten how to relax.

Maybe I never knew how to relax, except by slopping round at home, or doing fanzines, or whatever. Even my numerous overseas trips were at least as much a way of escaping an intolerable job as they were a positive step into a new environment. You may note that I haven't travelled overseas since starting work at the University.

We returned to Townsville inland via the Atherton Tablelands, running into pleasantly cool weather finally. Walked in Mossman Gorge, Granite Gap, talked with people who went there `for a week' six years ago, had meals at pubs. We walked in various national parks, prior to reaching the coast again two days later at Mission Beach. We returned home on 22nd August.

Why in the hell didn't I enjoy it more, especially when I'd had so few holidays that I was in danger of losing holiday by having accumulated too many. Some aspects of the trip were a problem. We had to jump in and go when Jean was able to get some time off. I think I find anticipation and planning for a trip a major part of the pleasure, and I was really unprepared, possibly even unwilling, to travel at all. I should have found maps and lists of attractions, so that I was looking forward to events, rather than just wandering along discovering things. I should have taken either more books, or more complex books. In short, I wasn't prepared. (Jean prefers to make up a trip as she goes along.)

I also worried a lot about the weather. I hate hot climates, and found that even in August, which is basically winter, I never needed a coat or pullover. In fact, T shirt and shorts could often be considered overdressing. I was squinting in the sun, and Jean had to keep reminding me to wear sunblock. I complained it was too hot; Jean claimed it was fine. Now, I could grow used to the August climate in Queensland, but the thought of what high summer would be like makes me very nervous.

Jean is interested in returning to the general Townsville area, so we were checking the potential work situation. As anticipated, there isn't a great demand for technical editors or writers up there.* Although some places realise they do need help in these areas, they usually can't raise the money to get staff. It did appear that I would be likely to be able to find work in the area, if AIMS and James Cook University were any guide. Jean is now trying to arrange a reality in which we can work summers in Sydney, and spend winter in Queensland.

Jean reckons there's plenty of potential, but a lot of marketing to be done.

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Reja-vu: Book Reviews

Some technophobes read historic novels so they can imagine a simpler, and less complex age. They are unworried about the realistic misery, and the perils of the past, quite ignoring the benefits we now enjoy solely as a consequence of technology. I read science fiction because I'm nostalgic for the future. I most sincerly hope that those who insist on living in the past die out peacefully, quietly, and soon!

Bayley, Barrington J, The Pillars of Eternity + The Garments of Caean

Pan, 1989, 414 pages, A$10.99

Bayley writes original SF, which generally take one or two ideas and extend them beyond the reasonable. He also tends to strongly introspective characters, seeking to find a meaning to what they do. Joachim Boaz has gone through agony beyond imagining, and now seeks a wandering planet that offers mastery over time. Actually, it matters little what he seeks, since the journey is the reward.

In the second novel, we find the Caeans in conflict with ordinary humans, who believe the Caeans are `cloths robots', defined and controlled by their legendary apparel. When Peder Forbath finds a Franchonard suit, he finds the clothes do make the man. We also learn how such a society evolved, and what hidden forces sustain it. A wonderfully logical conclusion, from strange premises indeed. Both fine, unusual SF novels.

Bayley, Barrington J, The Fall of Chronopolis + Collision with Chronos

Pan, 1989, 397 pages, A$10.99

Both novels deal with the clash of empires, one moving forward through time, the other backwards through time. A gloriously complex story, typical of Bayley, although it doesn't have the personal intensity of some of his work. Still great examples of the non-classic type of time travel novel.

Bisson, Terry, Fire on the Mountain

Avon, Feb 1990, 167 pages, US$3.50, A$7.95

An almost pastoral `alternate history' story, of a present time when the Deep South is Nova Africa, an independent black nation. The development of the utopian present, is traced through flashbacks to John Brown's successful slave insurrection. Beautifully written; I wish I knew enough of US history to appreciate it fully.

Bova, Ben, Cyberbooks

Tor, Jan 1990, 283 pages, US$4.50

What happens if a ruggedly individualistic, but socially naive, garage inventor, in the great American sci-fi tradition, invents an electronic book that is cheap, easy to produce and works? Well, as you all probably know, Sony already have one (albeit with significant flaws), and virtually everyone is ignoring it.

However, in Bova's satiric novel, the publishers stab each other in the back in their attempts to either own it or suppress it. There are some wonderful images in the novel, and more than half the fun is attempting to fit each character to some editor or publisher who may or may not still exist. I loved it!

Day, Chet, The Hacker

Pocket, Nov 1989, 310 pages, US$3.95

How could a computer enthusiast resist a title like this? Mind you, had I known it was promoted as a horror story, I might not have bothered. However, despite the blurb writers, this is a contemporary story whose inhabitants are the often weird (in some cases, exceedingly so) inhabitants of computer bulletin boards. In the course of hacking at The Surgery, the Chief Cutter, Tunnel Rat, Master Wu, Nelly Dean, Genghis Khan and Meat Grinder run up against the Succubus, who is even more twisted, and plays for keeps.

The author did a nice job of filling out the characters, showing them at their ordinary lives, as well as hacking, and portraying some of the fascination of the world in which they play. It is a horror story, but not by any means in the old mould. I thought it was most entertaining, but especially so for computer enthusiasts.

Dillard, J M, The Lost Years (Star Trek)

Pan, 1990, 307 pages, A$10.99

I don't normally read Star Trek novels, so when this and Spock's World arrived as review copies, I took the opportunity to read several other Star Trek novels that had providentially arrived round the same time. These included John M Ford's very funny (but possibly not particularly authentic) How Much for Just the Planet?, which took slapstick into new worlds (as it were). I read Diane Carey's Final Frontier, the story of Kirk's father in the early days of Star Fleet. A reasonably solid novel that filled in gaps in the Star Trek world. I also read some real drek novels, whose names providentially escape me. From this I conclude, as expected, that there is no `average' Star Trek novel.

On with the current book. The Lost Years is set after the events in Star Trek (the TV series), and before the various movies. The story involves the soul of an ancient Vulcan mind lord, who gets away 10,000 years after his death, and proceeds to cause trouble. Look, I was dubious about this. I mean, there have been some plots in ST that weren't exactly solid, but this one seemed weaker than most, even to me.

Duane, Diane, Spock's World

Pan, 1990, 310 pages, A$10.99

Lots more than I ever wanted to know about Vulcan history, as a crucial vote occurs that may split Vulcan from the Federation. Duane is a far better writer than Dillard, however you would need to be more interested in ST than I am to appreciate this. I can't fathom the fascination ST fans have for Vulcan stories. Any truely logical race would have died out long ago, from sheer disgust. But, it is at least well written.

Frankowski, Leo, Lord Conrad's Lady

Del Rey, Sep 1990, 296 pages, US$4.95

Book Five in the four volume adventures of Conrad Stargard. In short, why in the hell didn't the author finish the series with book four, clean up the few pages of lose ends, and not waste time with this?

It isn't about Francine, although there are lengthy sequences with her being pissed off that Conrad doesn't want to be king. It isn't about the climactic battle with the Mongol Horde; most of them were killed off last book.

Some money grubbing publisher conned the author into writing another book in the same series. It isn't particularly badly done. In fact, as usual, I rather enjoyed it. But there was also no real point in doing it. The real question is, when will Frankowski write another original novel?

Gerrold, David, When H.A.R.L.I.E. Was One. Release 2

Bantam, July 1988, 287 pages, US$3.95

Originally published in 1972, this novel of the first artificial intelligence stands up well among similar stories. There is a lot of existential angst, and questioning of why we are here, bound up in a nicely written story that should appeal to anyone who likes college bullshit sessions on the meaning of life. (I realise this type of thing doesn't appeal to everyone.)

The story covers the interaction between Harlie, the computer, his designers, who know Harlie is aware, and the corporate heads, who want an immediate return on their money. Lots and lots and lots of dialog. I do rather wish that the revision had given Harlie a better printer; upper case just doesn't make it in this day and age.

It is unfashionable to write stuff like this; but writing along these lines is one of the reasons I enjoy science fiction, so I'm delighted to see this reissue. The computer technology has been updated (always a problem in a field moving so fast), and some of the more naive arguments have been removed or tightened up. It makes a better novel than the original, without removing its charm.

Gibson, Edward, Reach

Bantam, May 1990, 385 pages, US$4.95

An interesting anomaly. The first science fiction novel by a Skylab astronaut. I have no idea whether it is as realistic as the blurb suggests, however this near future story of a deep-space probe encounter with a miniature black hole on the fringe of the solar system contains considerable detail of the feelings and lives of his protagonists. The story hung together reasonably well, and even had a nicely turned mystery to keep things moving. Considering the source, it probably is a realistic near future novel.

Gilliland, Alexis A, Wizenbeak

Del Rey Ballantine 36116, Sep 1989, 297 pages, US$3.95

Fans will recall a certain cartoon character appearing in many of Alexis' fanzine contributions. Well, Wizenbeak, the back country water wizard, gets his own novel this time, and it is a real delight for those who enjoy droll humour, coupled with a fast paced tale of political and religious intrigue as the battle for the kingdom hots up. The king has died: Queen Shaia, the witch queen, lies lifeless (but perhaps not precisely dead), and the witchfinders of the Church are in full cry.

Being put in charge of a remote, desert outpost might well be the safest place for Wizenbeak, at least until the witchfinders arrange to send an army against him.

Gilliland, Alexis A, The Shadow Shaia

Del Rey Ballantine 36115, June 1989, 213 pages, US$3.95

I can't talk about the sequel without giving away the plot of the first novel. However Wizenbeak's problems increase, and having neighbouring kingdoms invade wasn't helping any. Wizenbeak was in double trouble. I particularly liked the scene where some of Wizenbeak's cronies were recounting how he drank the bishop under the table. Reminds me of a certain cartoon (and of certain fannish parties).

Gribbin, John, Father to the Man

Tor, Feb 1990, 248 pages, US$3.95 A$8.95

The world is going to hell in the proverbial. Biologist Richard Lee had wrecked his career by proclaiming that humans and chmipanzees might be sibling species. And who would take over when humans died out? Richard Lee knows, and he isn't telling. Does have some rather nice digs at the `establishment', scientific and political.

Well, most readers will have worked it all out long before the end, won't be shocked, and will probably think the science presented is more than slightly suspect. This is another `Ben Bova Presents' book; if this and Ether Ore are typical of what Bova now thinks of as superior work, then Bova's judgment has declined remarkably since his days as editor of Analog (well, OK, it is possible my standards are now slightly higher, but I deny that!)

Haldeman, Joe, Buying Time

Avon, June 1990, 295 pages, US$3.95

The Stileman Process can make you young again, however, there are a few problems. It costs at least a million pounds, or the patient's total net worth, whichever is greater. And it only lasts ten years. If you can make one million pounds once, you can probably do so again, and thus live forever, barring accidents.

However if the Stileman Foundation has a secret agenda, and you decline to join, your newly won immortality may only last until the first `accident'. Fast paced action adventure, on a future Earth, and in the asteroids.

The lack of technical advance troubled me, although it doesn't affect the story. This is set at least a century in the future; it doesn't feel all that advanced, yet it is obvious that change is accelerating. I know this sort of thing is a problem, but I couldn't help feeling that the whole story should have been set closer to our time.

Bit of a deux ex machina ending, which troubled me, but it certainly wasn't telegraphed at the start.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, despite Joe killing off my character early in the story. However, it probably can safely be said that I'm prejudiced, despite not getting my wish to be killed off flying a hang glider off the Harbour Bridge (I was trying to make things hard for Joe). Gay sent me an autographed copy - my autograph shelf is sagging badly!

Hogan, James P, Endgame Enigma

Bantam HC, Aug 1987, 408 pages, US$16.95

A (yawn) spy story set on a giant Soviet space station capable of housing 12,000 people. The US secret agent and the beautiful scientist are despatched to find out if it contains doomsday weapons, and end up stuck in a Gulag. I wish Hogan would drop his tedious suspense fiction, and get back to writing stuff like the Giants Trilogy (scientific mystery). His handling of character is not sufficient to rely upon this and incident alone, although he certainly isn't a bad storyteller.

Hogan, James P, Mirror Maze

Bantam, Mar 1989, 439 pages, US$4.95

Yet another near future thriller, with a scientist as the protagonist. As usual, well written, nicely paced, I like the idea of having scientists and technical people carry forward a story. But I wish Hogan would go back to writing traditional sf, as I enjoyed that much more. If he keeps doing this sort of stuff, I'll start reviewing Tom Clancy instead!

Hubbard, L Ron, Voyage of Vengeance

New Era, August 1988, 381 pages, A$26.95

Opps, thought I'd long ago mentioned Vol 7 in this Mission Earth series. Let's see, car chases, helicopter chases, Countess Krak kidnapped, believed dead. Actually, I couldn't finish this one, and it ended with a cliffhanger in any case. Sometimes Hubbard's pulp prose and indecently broad satire is too much even for a devout Doc Smith fan such as myself. I know I have a wooden ear for dialogue, but there are limits!

Hubbard, L Ron, Disaster

New Era, 1988, 337 pages, A$26.95

The story picked up a bit in Vol 8 of Mission Earth, with Heller escaping the assasins from the previous book, cleaning up the environment (this, remember, was why Heller was sent here * if the environment was too stuffed up, the Voltans couldn't invade) by producing a cheap non-polluting fuel, takes on Rockecentre, barely avoids a world war, and adjusts the axis of Earth. And on the second page ... No, I jest. However this book was much better paced than the previous one. It also, strangely, introduces another plot, set 100 years hence, with a Voltan historian trying to discover whsat exactly did happen. I had the distinct feeling Hubbard decided he couldn't stretch his original stuff far enough to manage ten books.

Hubbard, L Ron, Villainy Victorious

New Era, 1988, 419 pages, A$26.95

Various nefarious characters from Earth, imprisoned on Voltan by Heller, manage to gain influence, join up with the villain Soltan Gris, and take over Voltan, for a bit of a change of pace. Well, all heros need a bit of challenge near the end of a series, and this is Vol 9 in Mission Earth.

Different PR person this time. Lucy Holynsky sent this volume, and the usual review and synopsis. I've got to hand it to New Era; their PR work on this series has been excellent (you don't think books get to be best sellers on their contents, do you?)

Hubbard, L Ron, The Doomed Planet

New Era, 1988, 333 pages, A$26.95

The final volume in Mission Earth, this pits Heller against Lombar Hisst, now dictator of Voltan. However, even if the Emperor is restored to the throne, this won't be the end, for what of Earth? Lots of fun as all the strings are pulled together in this volume.

I notice Julie Tremp (nee Jones) is back doing PR for the series. Also, at least the first four volumes are out in paperback in Australia (up to volume 10 in the USA). In the PR package was a list of some of Hubbard's hundred or so books (may be handy for SF bibliographers), and an interesting magazine about L Ron's life.

Leigh, Stephen, The Abraxas Marvel Circus

Roc (Penguin USA), May 1990, 255 pages, A$8.95, US$3.95

I don't like fantasy, but I do like Stephen Leigh, thus I had to try this fantasy novel. I was expecting something dark, gloomy, thoughtful and pessimistic, with religion (or at least, belief) and death as major themes, like The Bones of God.

Instead, we have a real romp, with religion as discord, a comedy with totally insane Tarot characters, from several alternate worlds, in a contemporary world. The viewpoint character is a historian turned rock and roll singer, deciding whether to attempt to play things safe, or turn equally wacky. The protagonists seek the author of the Destiny Matrices, the mathematics of alternate realities, so they can preserve their own reality. That the loathsome inventor of the matrix, Carlos Theopelli, has been dead for ten years makes things much more complicated. I mean, you have to stuff the entrails back in the body ... messy business!

I was particularly taken with the undertaker, Ecclesiastes Mitsumishi, and his string of evocatively named but not very successful funeral parlors, with titles such as Remains to the Seen, Corpus Delicti, The Body Shoppe, and The Stiff's Upper Lip. To my disappointment, he didn't have Tomb It May Concern.

The note about the author claims the book is not entirely autobiographical, but I don't believe the note.

MacAvoy, R A, Tea With the Black Dragon

Bantam, Dec 1988, 166 pages, A$7.95

A charming fantasy and romance, set in the present, with a middle aged eccentric heroine, an unlikely Chinese dragon, and a silicon mage. The technology is a little dated, and perhaps not totally understood by the author, however this matters little. It has the same sort of elegance as Peter Beagle's A Fine and Private Place, although distinctly different. I reviewed this when it first appeared, perhaps five years ago. Transworld distribute it in Australia.

McCaffrey, Anne, Dragonsdawn

Corgi, 1989, 473 pages, A$10.95

An obvious work for Dragon completists, this is chronologically the first book in the Pern series. It covers human exploration taking the first three colony ships to Pern, why they couldn't continue, and what became of the ships. Also explained is the biotechnology applied to the fire lizards to produce the dragons, following the Thread invasion.

I'm not exactly sure how the planet continues to have vegetation, if Thread is as dangerous and prevalent as depicted, but perhaps I missed that. Despite this quibble, this is an entertaining, three part novel that stands well alone, and fits even better into previous Pern stories. I'd rate it better than many more recent Pern novels, which often seemed to me trivial (but I will grant that I wasn't paying much attention to them).

McCollum, Michael, Antares Passage

Grafton, 1989, 351 pages, $10.95

I reviewed the US paperback of this sequel to Antares Dawn a couple of years ago. This again follows Captain Richard Drake, leader of the first expedition from Alta following the re-establishing of foldspace connections to the rest of human space. However, to reach Earth, and its potential military help, the Altans would have to pass through the Ryall lines, and risk warning these enemies that they existed. The only solution was a path through the supenova split system of Anatres itself.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of McCollum's space opera, and this is no exception.

Pratchett, Terry, Wyrd Sisters

Corgi 1989, 252 pages, A$8.95

Since I don't read fantasy, I hadn't seen any Terry Pratchett novels until these review copies arrived, probably in anticipation of Pratchett's recent Australian tour. I'm sure I won't ignore him in the future.

I generally don't read novels by UK authors, and this is only partly because of the generally outrageous paperback prices. SF novels from the UK seem to me to fall into three distinct groups.

Disaster, wherein the world perishes with a whimper, recorded by non-survivor types. I attribute this group to the British weather, and the reconstruction of Germany.

Artsy, Interzone stuff, wherein unsympathetic, grossly unattractive protagonists examine their entrails (thankfully mostly figuratively) for reasons for their existential angst. I attribute this to British Rail food.

Wacky, off the wall comedy, in which anything goes. I attribute this to escapism - the authors are trying to escape the previous two unnatural disasters.

Pratchett's novels fall naturally into the last school. More surreal than Douglas Adams, helped by being more oriented to fantasy. Anything can and does happen, mostly in a humourous manner.

Story, you want story? Wyrd Sisters is a Discworld novel, about three witches (not precisely your traditional types, despite the title coming from Macbeth ... but that scene contains more book titles than you can poke a stick at) playing politics in a small kingdom, that has just lost its king, although his ghost is still haunting the place. They try to put the missing Prince on the throne. Time plays a big part in this novel.

Pratchett, Terry, Pyramids

Corgi 1990, 285 pages,

Pyramids is about the son of a kingdom that has just lost its king, although his ghost is still haunting the place. The son isn't at all sure he wants the throne, and his training as an assasin assists him in his escapades to escape this fate. Time plays a big part in this novel, but it is even funnier than Wyrd Sisters.

Pratchett, Terry, Strata

Corgi, 1988, 192 pages,

The major problem with building worlds is that good help gets bored. They have a tendency to add wrist watches to the Tyranosaurus skeletons, gold fillings to the Neanderthals. It looks bad when some unsuspecting buyer digs up this sort of stuff in Strata. What is even worse is that maybe the stars themselves were produced by the lowest bidder. This seems more than likely when a discworld is discovered.

Pratchett, Terry, Truckers

Doubleday, Aug 1990 Transworld release, 190 pages, A$16.95 hardcover

The outside world is a terribly dangerous place, if you are a four inch nome, so when Masklin's dwindling band hitchhiked a ride on a truck, and reached Arnold Brothers (est. 1905) store, and discovered an organised community of thousands of nomes, they were more than content to stay. Unfortunately, the store was scheduled for demolition in 21 days!

The escape plan is a real example of thinking big (for small people), aided and abetted by all manner of hints from classic literature, including the good Dean Swift.

Delightful young adult story (for all ages) with the usual Pratchett humour.

Pratchett, Terry, Diggers

Doubleday, Aug 1990 Transworld release, 153 pages, A$17.95 hardcover

Sequel to Truckers, in which Masklin's band seek to prevent the humans re-opening the quarry in which they have taken refuge. Offstage, Masklin and a few companions seek the meaning of hints given by a computer the nomes have preserved for the past fifteen thousand years. The sequel to this should be real fun!

Preuss, Paul, Breaking Strain

Pan, 1990, 265 pages, $10.99

The UK edition of the Avon paperback of the Byron Priess production of Arthur C Clarke's Venus Prime series.

Lots of authors have more ideas than they can write, so they farm out a series. Some good, some bad. This isn't bad, but it also isn't all that good. Aimed at a youth market. Linda is the genetically and surgically altered offspring of parents who were aiming to make her a superior being, at least in terms of adaptability to a technological society. But she falls, or is placed, in the hands of a group who want to use her. Memory wiped, she manages to escape, and has her first adventure, a detective story described in this novel. I presume later books will carry the framing story forward, while having some other story as the major thread.

Shatner, William, TekWar

Bantam Trade PB, May 1990, 216 pages, A$16.95

This one is peculiar. It will probably sell to the Trekies on the name of the author, although it is actually a fairly standard detective story set early in the 22nd Century. Apart from robots, aircabs, servomechs cleaning apartments, and hacker service for things the computers don't want you to know, life is pretty much as we have it in big cities. The hot item is Tek, a brain stimulant that lets you enjoy any fantasy you like. It is also illegal, and the protagonist, a former detective, is addicted. Mind you, having the addicts called Tekies may be going a bit far ...

Basically the story rattles along at a fair pace. It doesn't need to be presented as science fiction; could just as easily be set in our time. In summary, not bad for a first novel. See if he can do another before deciding what sort of an author Shatner makes.

Whiteford, Wynne, Lake of the Sun

Ace, May 1989, 249 pages, US$3.50 A$7.95

Mars has been invaded by strange aliens, and they are us. Nicely done `first contact' story, from the alien viewpoint. The major focus throughout is the Martian people, who have to cope with the strange and new world that is the surface of Mars, a place they haven't visited in centuries. But someone is knocking on the roof of their world. Too much mundane (Martian) politics, but if there weren't, where would the plot be?

Williams, Walter Jon, Angel Station

Tor, May 1990, 393 pages, US$4.95

Space adventure on a human level, with a nicely complex plot, and a pair of strongly depicted characters. Basically the biography of the owners of the tramp starship Runaway, from the death of their, by then, mostly crazy father. Of course, `father' isn't really the correct term, since an unaugmented human just wouldn't make it in the business circles of the future. And selecting traits that help run a starship need not help fit the `children' into any society.

The freebooting society rings true, albeit by being a nasty, brutish place. Likewise, the technical advances in a variety of fields make the entire society feel like the future, with vivid and often unexpected details. As I've mentioned a number of times, I've been very impressed with the realism Williams brings to his novels.

I'm also impressed with how close this rings in prose style to another well known author. I do believe Walter is deliberately writing in the style of numerous authors, although whether this is because he takes them as models, or whether it is just to prove he can do it accurately, remains unknown. Considering the precision with language he demonstrated when I knew him, I suspect he is doing a lot of it simply to prove that he can write in the style of virtually any author.

Analog Catalog

Perception Research. PO Box 166, Scarborough WA 6019

I bought this $40 catalog of Analog direct from Davis Publications in the USA, as a result of comments about it in Analog. To my considerable surprise, when it arrived, it turned out to have been done by Ian Bacon, an Analog enthusiast who runs a computing business in West Australia.

It is basically a catalog of every story or article in Analog between 1960 and 1989, all set out in a database, with appropriate search facilities, ready for you to use. Looks like one of the dBase compatible compilers was used, but I don't know enough about typical IBM software to comment on which one. Whatever was used, it runs about as you would expect, and could easily be used by a novice who can follow instructions.

I used it on an old XT with CGA video with no problems, and you can't get more ancient than that. It does however require a hard disk, with about two megabyte of free space - there is a lot of information included. Ian writes to tell me his Issac Asimov Magazine catalog will be done round January; can't wait to see that as well.*

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I have here a bunch of locs that should have appeared in the previous issue, but lack of time left them out. For example, I found to my horror that I didn't have a Harry Warner, Jr loc in the last issue! You can probably work out which are which from the dates.

To my considerable delight, many of the locs mentioned finding the book reviews of use. I haven't printed most of these comments, but it is an encouraging sign; for a while there, I thought no-one else was reading sf these days.

The last section of the locs relate to my outburst on Sydney conventions, and the Sydney in 95 Worldcon bid.

Ken Lake

115 Markhouse Avenue London, E17 BAY, UK 15 May 1990

Ezra Pound wrote "Ideas petrify. An orthodoxy is constructed, and the ideology dies." He also quoted with approval - despite himself writing at inordinate length - T.E. Hulme's comment that "All a man ever thought would go on to half a sheet of notepaper. The rest is application and elaboration."

These two aphorisms come to mind as I read through Gegenschein 57. Now this title has been one I have constantly encountered during my fannish years, almost invariably cited as a model of fine fannish work. Copies have eluded me until now, when I come in at #57 and discover that it's just an ongoing chatsheet allied to a dumping ground for antiquated (though none the less amusing for all that) parodies.

To be honest, I'm disappointed. I had expected rainbows and lightning; I got a 40-watt lamp in an old house.

All this talk of computers leaves me totally cold: I use an electric typewriter with automatic lift-off for same-line correction, and no other gimmicks at all. On this, I write an average of 150 2,000 word articles a year which I sell to magazines, and a vast private correspondence. I keep real carbons using real carbon paper, and I would never dream of risking all the ills to which computerdom is prey, like "losing" copy - the only way I can lose a carbon is by misfiling it, and this leaves a strictly finite number of places to look for something which by its nature cannot be destroyed without human interference.

{{I'm hardly responsible for overrated reports you may have heard; and, to be honest, I suspect I was doing far better fanzines when it was my major hobby. Sometimes it all seems too much a chore, rather than an enjoyment, however I don't want to totally lose contact with fans, despite the often lengthy gaps between issues.

{{I'm sure productivity is higher when not using computers. I think they are vastly overrated, and a major boon only to bureaucracies, and those who work at keeping them in order. You may note that my present generally pleasant job playing with computers (and I do mean playing) exists only because they can't be used in bulk without having someone on hand to tend to the machine. EL}}

Cathy Howard

3600 Parker Ave, Louisville, Ky 40212 USA

Thirteen(!) computers(!) Obviously your insurance company is grossly superstitious {{Nah, I'd have to have 144 to make them grossly superstitious. EL}}. Buy another computer and see if the insurance company calms down. {{Actually, I'm down to a mere eleven now that the Atari STs are gone EL}}

You are remarkably casual about rewiring buildings. No one questions someone who acts like they know what they are doing. I, personally, would never dream of questioning someone who is is doing wiring; but then again, I would consider it a reasonable precaution to shake a cord's prongs over a wastebasket after unplugging a lamp. {{That is a consequence of overextending analogies between power and water flow ... a natural mistake, given most education systems. EL}}

Terry Jeeves

56 Red Scar Drive Scarborough, VO12 5RQ UK 17 July 1990

Loved the parody on White Christmas - amazing that it could be done at all, let alone so well.

Electronic fanzines - OK if you can afford the horrendous (over here) cost of running a modem phone line for any length of time. Latest racket here is `information services'. Various firms supply all sorts of info (medical, legal, holiday, etc.) recorded - which run about three minutes to ten minutes, and cost the caller 25p or 38p per minute of listening time. {{There is a similar scheme here, also at vast expense. Normally the fact that there is a cost is well publicised by those enticing people to use it - I'm dubious about the merits of the various offerings, and so have never tried any. EL}}

Agree with you that the law is often of little use to the honest - except to restrict them further. Over here, football supporters identity cards and `I'm 18+' pub cards are in favour. Getting such cards is a bind for the law abiding, whereas the yobbos such ideas are aimed at will take great delight in acquiring fake ones as one more sneer at `authority'.

Re the Flawkin's Music Depreciation - The article totally ignores the fact that some orchestras (and groups) play more high notes than low ones. This is clearly discriminatory and in future, any ensemble which does not play an equal number of high and low notes will not get a grant. Eventually this will be extended to make sure every playable note will be used just as often as any other during a concert. {{Actually, I was of the opinion that some modern music was already done that way. EL}}

Sheryl Birkhead

23629 Woodfield Road, Gaithersburg, MD. 20882 17 April 1990

I've quietly asked around about a PC and to date it is still out of my reach. I've paid to take a computer as an art aid course - the main catch being that I have to buy the software, but actually have no equipment to use it. But, the instructor said quite a "few" of last sessions students had no access to a computer. Perhaps owning the software can nudge me into getting the hardware (yeah, if I win the lottery and learn a whole lot more than I know now).

Is there any SIMPLE introduction to computers - NOT too simple - I understand theory and did (once upon a time) programs but "several" generations ago (in Fortran IV).

{{Can readers offer help? I think the most important thing is to find programs that do what you need, try them out, and then buy whatever computer is needed to run them. Join a users group. For MS-DOS computers, Van Wolverton's books all seem pretty readable. For people not interested in computers, Macintosh are easy to use, but the prices are a rip off. EL}}

Do electronic bulletin boards function internationally? Just wondered. I know they "could", but DO they?

{{Well, sort of. Anyone who wants to pay the phone line bills can dial direct overseas, if their modem is compatible (most recent ones are). Usenet is available in North America, Europe and Australia, mostly here via universities. I have access (see the letter from Bruce Pelz and others this issue). I can get access to some US BBS systems, such as Compuserve, via Usenet, but don't have an account on Compuserve so I've never tried. EL}}

Lloyd Penney

412-22 Riverwood Parkway Toronto, Ont. Canada M8Y 4E1 24 June 1990

Congrats on getting back into pubbing. I am quickly discovering that many people who think of themselves as the heart of fanzine fandom haven't published anything in between 5 and 25 years. Meanwhile those who publish regularly are still looked upon as the neos ... hmm, I think I'm getting it now!

Many people swear by Ventura Publisher ... some swear at it. I work at Sears Canada as a senior editor. With new electronic typesetting equipment from Berthold A.G. in West Germany ... and software called ProfiPage V.1.02 ... I can now do my own typesetting using any size, any style of font, anywhere, plus rules screens, you name it. It makes Ventura look like crayons and paper. It is a true WYSIWYG system, with the job shown in progress on a portion of the 24" monitor it needs. {{I bet it cost a fortune as well. EL}}

Even though there's many computer networks with SIGs dedicated to various sfnal topics, there's still many apas out there, and they seem to be thriving. In the latest issue of The New Moon Directory, the apa list published by Eric Watts in association with the N3F, there are 182 apas listed, mostly of which are still active. {{I'm delighted to hear I was in error about the decline of apas. EL}}

Chester D Cuthbert

1104 Mulvey Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada R3M 1J5 18 May 1990

Two fanzines have published my appeal for hardcover books by A. Merritt without my receiving any response. I did obtain some from Howard DeVore, and I have ordered three from Ray F. Bowman, a dealer. I am particularly interested in obtaining British or Australian editions if any are available.

Harry Warner, Jr.

423 Summit Avenue Hagerstown, MD 21740 USA 14 May 1990

Maybe it's somewhat different in Australia about privacy of census findings. In the United States, access to individual census returns is prohibited for a considerable period. After that period elapses, people hunting up family tree information or historians can go hunting for individual names and addresses and ages and so on. The United States is currently in the throes of its census, which is considerably fouled up: the original mailing of forms to everyone didn't meet the ideal because of mixups over people who use post office boxes to get their mail, and there is turmoil in many large cities where officials claim the door to door people aren't doing their job properly and will cause those cities to receive fewer Federal funds in the 1990's for programs whose expenditures are determined by official population statistics for cities.

Apparently insurance companies also behave differently in your part of the world. I've never been asked to provide security for the house in the form of locks or burgular alarms or anything by the agent. The firm did ask about smoke alarms and gave me a slight discount when I reported the existence of one of the things downstairs and another upstairs.

I wish I could comment on your computer material which dominated the space this issue. But unfortunately, I continue to be totally ognorant of computer matters except for the basics that I was forced top learn in order to qualify for enlistment in the clandestine counter revolutionary forces which are secretly growing in strength in preparation for the great anti computer revolution. We may allow a few impersonal computers to exist after the good fight is won but we value our privacy much too much to let even one personal computer survive.

Kathleen Gallagher

P O Box 42, Worthington, OH, 43085 USA 20 July 1990

I'm glad my insurance company isn't as crazy as yours. We're insured for replacement value for three computers. Mine, Dan's and the kid's. We're talking about a modem, a scanner, two lap tops, a second floppy disk drive and expanding the space on the hard drive.

Paul Harwitz

PO Box 55174 Sherman Oaks, CA 91413-5174 USA 1 Oct 1990

Had to use a "Stealth" cargo plane to ship you the moat building kit (complete with crocs and piranha), the chain-link electrified fence it, the three kinds of barbed wire with which to top it (regular, concertina and ribbon style), the land mine kit, the exTERMinator kit (for the killer robot controlled from your terminal), and the "Build Your Own Bobby Traps" book and kit. I'm sorry I couldn't send them by Parcel Post instead, but the Aussie Customs Officials were rather impolite when I phoned them, especially when I asked about getting import licenses for the fully automatic assult rifles and 500,000 rounds of ammo (those are included in the shipment.)

I hope your neighbours wren't unduely disturbed or freightened by the arrival of the VTOL "Stealth" cargo plane at 0300 hours. The mercenaries (who delivered everything) told me they had to give CPR to "some old bat who was looking out of a nearby house's window and screaming her bleeping head off," but that she was the only one who was inclined to object to their presence. (As soon as they revived her, they handed her a bill for the CPR. "We're not running a charity," they told her. Right then and there, she paid, in cash.)

If all this doesn't shut up your insurance compny, perhaps it's time for me to pay a long threatened, er, long requested, trip to Australia to set them straight.

Redd Boggs

PO Box 1111 Berkeley, Ca 94701 USA 3 Oct 1990

I must confess that not only had I never heard of (let alone read) a single book you reviewed this time, I hadn't heard of most of the authors, aside from Martin Caiden, G. C. Edmondson, and Timothy Zahn. And I must further confess, I am glad! But I did want to comment on your prefactory remark that "if I liked life, I wouldn't bother to read fiction." That's worthy of inclusion in a book of quotable quotes, or at least of being interlined in a fanzine. You shouldn't ought to bury a choice bon mot like that.

Walter Willis

32 Warren Road, Donaghadee, N. Ireland BT21 0PD 12 Oct 1990

Thank you very much for Gegenschein 58. It's one of my favourite fmz titles, having the estimable quality of making me feel far more cultured than I really am. I feel I understand what it means, with only the slight semantic fuzziness caused by associations with Poe's doppleganger and with the second Earth which is supposed to occupy an orbit behind the sun.

I have to admit to feeling a similar pleasant wonderment about much of your material about computers. It is all fascinating, but teetering here on top of my little Amstrad molehill I cannot see far enough into your awesome Himalayas of accomplishment to make any sensible comment on them. So I seize on something familiar, recognising the feeling as the same one used to have when transferred to a new job and finding with pleasure something familiar in it, even something as small as a paperclip.

In this case it's your mention of Martin and yourself "grabbing interesting files from all over the world". It reminds me of how a few months ago I heard from a young fan in Florida expressing his surprise and delight at having come across The Enchanted Duplicator in a Unix database in Rutgers University, in an old number of a Bulletin Board fmz called SF Lovers Digest, dating from 1983. This was all the more interesting since James White and I had just finished a sequel to The Enchanted Duplicator in which Jophan uses a computer. (And has a lifestyle more like that of JR Madden, as depicted in your letter section, than that of Harry Warner.)

I liked your reviews because, apart from their intrinsic merit they are written from a point of view sufficiently similar to my own to be a helpful guide. I too abhor horror, sword and sorcery on the one hand, and `realism' on the other. (As George Charters put it once "there is far too much real life going on in the world anyway".) Where we ight part company is that I'm not all that keen on action either. For me, ideas are everything. Well, nearly everything. My favourite science fiction would be Van Vogt plots rewritten by Sturgeon. Meanwhile, I will settle for something like Sagan's Contact, though as a result of your reviews I am looking out for McDevitt's The Hercules Text.

I liked LLoyd Penny's story about the poker game in the elevator. I didn't know it was possible for all the players in a poker hand to be raised simultaneously. {{I'm not going to touch that line! EL}}

Mike Glicksohn

508 Windermere Ave, Toronto Ontario, Canada, M6S 3L6 26 Sep 1990

Personally I like to think that I've raised imbibing to the level of an art form and I know for certain that it's an activity that has raised me to great heights on many occasions without the need to pierce my too solid flesh with large pointed objects so I'm inclined to vote with you and against Stelarc on the question of sanity. And I very seriously doubt that I could have stayed in the same room with a man who was being suspended from the ceiling by hooks, or showing pictures of it, or talking about it. You are a better Fan GoH than I am, Eric L! {{Don't know why you complain; the meat hooks were sterilised. EL}}

I was a bit surprised to find I'd actually read one of the books you reviewed. There's a reason for that, though, beyond mere similarity of reading dispositions. The last con I was GoH at, out in mind biogglingly beautiful Banff, attracted Dean Ing as an attendee and I so enjoyed his company that I bought a book in the dealer's room to get his autograph. It was The Big Lifters which was nothing like I thought it would be and is everything you said it was. (Gee, if more committees would use me as a Guest think of all the new authors I could add to my library and think how happy some dealers would be. Now if only these blinding insights could circulate amongst concoms ...)

Since I don't have a computer I toyed with the idea of sending you a short loc in a circle of cardboard but I figured it was more trouble than such an obvious visual joke merited.

Your lettercol is highly unusual in the variety of names it features. Quite a few unexpected "blasts for the past" therein!

No, no: "there" and "their" are homophones. Homonyms are spelled alike but mean different things, like "pool of water" and "game of pool." {{Opps}}

What do I say about Lloyd's story about my elevator poker game? I say it is completely apocryphal, a total flight of fancy, and an amusing addition to my extremely low-key legend within fandom. It definately did not take place in any universe I remember inhabiting which probably means one of two things: (a) It happened and I've completely forgotten about it since those particular brain cells were destroyed. (b) It never happened, Lloyd made it up because he's a fun fannish guy, and he knows I'll never be able to prove it's fictitious because of all my dead memory cells. I opt for (b) myself but I'll definately confront Lloyd on the matter at the first available opportunity. (Which I just did and he accepts that this is a false memory and never actually happened. Phew.) {{But Mike, I can almost remember it myself ... EL}}

Chester may claim that he has never attended a convention but he'll have to admit that he's visited at least one. When I was Fan GoH at Keycon in Winnipeg a couple of years back and Sam Moskowitz was passing through and attended the con Chester came out one afternoon and visited with us for a little while.

Julie Vaux

14 Zara Street Willoughby, NSW 2068 21 Sept 1990

I'm sorry to read you're feeling negative about the chances of fandom organising a Syncon = Worldcon bid in '95.

Gosh! I thought Australian state had two alternating natural states - anarchy as well as apathy ...? Ah well, entropy aids evolution ... perhaps we need some "positive" chaos?

Reading about Stelarc, I can't help thinking that Stelarc would be doing something far more useful if he devoted his talents to designing prosthetics that are both beautiful and functional for those who truely need them - but performance art gets a much bigger grant than prosthetics design probably and wastefully.

I would like to highly recommend Sheri Tepper's Grass. It is superb.

I need an Apple (II+) compatible Greek typeface program if any of your other readers know of one.

{{Artists tend to work on areas that interest them, regardless of use; I wouldn't have it any other way, considering how trivial some of my hobbies are. If this is selfishness, any outside change is slavery. For myself, I tend only to help others if I know them, and I don't know any disabled people. (Also, to be accurate, Stelarc's gear isn't directly suitable for use by amputees since it partly relies on picking up electrical impulses from muscles they lack. EL}}

Ian Bacon

Perception Research PO Box 166 Scarborough, WA 6019

You are the first Australian to order a catalog of the Analog Catalog. I am glad that I'm not the only one in this country who reads Analog. Hope you find the Catalog useful. {{This $40 IBM PC compatible database lists all items in Analog from 1960 to 1989. It worked fine on an XT, and will be reviewed shortly. EL}}

Damir Coklin

Pregradska 4, 41000 Zagreb Yugoslavia

A month ago an old friend of mine, a new chum living in Melbourne, having heard of my immigration to Australia, invited me earnestly to spend my first days in Australia at his place, and stay there as long as I like. I simply couldn't say no to him, thinking it's the best way to start a living there.

Pity I won't be living in Sydney, but I think Melbourne won't be such a bad substitute. After all, there are such BNFs as Justin Ackroyd, Roger Weddall and Marc Ortlieb who I just cannot wait to meet.

Gerald Smith

GPO Box 429, Sydney NSW 2001 8 August 1990

As I read "Conned Again" I became steadily more angry. I am still angry. Maybe I should let myself cool off before I continue but I tend to think that I won't cool off until I have had my say.

{{Nah, don't cool off; replies are more fun when done in the heat of the moment. How do you think I wrote my original article. I wrote it because I was angry! EL}}

I was also very surprised. Astonished is probably closer to the truth. I find it amazing that it could be Eric Lindsay who was saying these things. From Mike McGann I would expect it. From Terry Frost I would not be surprised. But not from you, Eric. {{I take it I'm not supposed to get annoyed when something appears to be stuffed up? EL}}

Let's see if I can take each point you make, one at a time, and try and remain rational in my response.

Rod Kearins assures me that PR#1 for Syncon was sent out to all members and to quite a number of other fans as well. Now, when a convention sends out publicity (especially PRs) it is forced to assume that the Post Office will duly deliver that mail correctly. No convention has the resources to check and make sure that that everyone received what they were sent - if we did then we could simply hand deliver the stuff ourselves. Instead convention committees are forced to rely on people's feedback i.e. they let us know they didn't get it. We had no such response from either you or Jean. And this despite the fact that I spoke to Jean twice in the run up to the convention. What are we supposed to be? Mind readers?

{{I repeat: PR#1 was not received by mail by me, Jean, not by Ken Ozanne, nor Gordon Lingard. Jean and I paid for memberships at Danse Macabre. I assume from context that the single folded sheet I saw at Danse Macabre was PR#1, and not, as I thought, an advertising flyer. I distinctly recall the flyer (or PR#1 if you like) also said there would be another PR. The flyer said University of Western Sydney, and a date, according to what I noted in my diary. You may recall that until recently, UWS did not exist, and the campus in question was the Hawkesbury Agricultural College, which has about seven building served by four parking lots. No room numbers were mentioned, nor were public transport facilities (which are not obvious to non-locals) to the site mentioned. EL}}

You say that this supposed lack of publicity might help explain why recent Sydney cons have so few attendees, and none from interstate. The only "recent Sydney cons" you could be referring to are Syncons 89 and 90.

Syncon 89 was a last minute decision. It was organised in four weeks entirely as a bit of harmless fun. Just how much publicity do you expect we could get out in such a short time? And still we had what I would consider a not bad turn up including, I might add, one member from Adelaide and one from Newcastle.

Syncon 90 was only ever intended to be a small regional. At the absolute most we wanted 100 people. In the end we got about sixty and that included two from Melbourne, two from Brisbane, and about ten from Canberra. I admit that the publicity was not on the scale of a Natcon or a large regional - it was never meant to be. I suggest that you ask either the Clarkes or the Straedes what they thought of it since you obviously won't take our word for it.

I'm sorry if your letter box wasn't bursting with publicity for the con, or that you didn't see all the power poles in Sydney plastered with posters. Maybe next time we should put you in charge of publicity. Or, perhaps, at the very least we should have you on the mailing list more than once.

I suggest that, before you make comments like this again, you at least check your facts first.

{{Fact. Four fans, two of whom had memberships, did not receive anything by mail. Fact. Although the flyer promised a second PR, it also never arrived (I fancy it was never produced, or was too late). EL}}

Your views on Australia holding Worldcons are well known. I respect you for them. You don't like the idea and that's fine. But do you have to deliberately set out to sabotage our bid to hold one. You may well have accomplished in a few short words what it took some in Melbourne ages to do back in '81. You think that could be an exaggeration. Maybe it is. If so then no more than what you have to say. And there is some reason for my concern. Eric Lindsay is still someone widely and highly respected in American fandom. If he tells the world in his fanzine that a Sydney bid for Worldcon is a joke then what are many in the States to think?

{{According to your own letter, Sydney's credentials, over the past two years of intensive preparation for running a Worldcon, are two relaxacons, with a TOTAL membership of under 100, and five attendees from outside the boundary of NSW. Are you sure it's not a joke? EL}}

I can assure you, Eric, it is not a joke. We have a committee of nine people who are already working hard to make the whole thing a success and are prepared to work their butts off in the future. Perhaps you'd like to know the names of the people you have libelled? You might even know some of them. They are Rod Kearins, Kevin MacLean, Graeme Batho, Jack Herman, Michelle Hallett, Ray Gleeson, Mike Bourne, Gerald Smith and Garry Luckman.

{{`Libelled' is a curiously precise term, coming from someone trained in law such as yourself. Considering that accuracy is generally considered a good point on which to base a defence, I don't believe I need unduely fear an action for defamation. I also understand that Jack Herman is no longer on the committee, due to pressure of business. EL}}

I can also assure you that there are plenty of others out there who fail to see the joke. And that includes quite a number of people overseas who have already put in the necessary hard work to ensure our success. You might have heard of some of our avowed supporters as well. People like Carey Handfield, Justin Ackroyd, Roman Orszanski, Greg Turkich, Robin Johnson, Lucy Huntzinger, Janice Murray, jan howard finder, Joe and Gay Haldeman, Eve and John Harvey - and that's just some. {{See the note from jan finder below. EL}}

Yes, there are old fans in Sydney who have tired of running cons. Most appear to have given up all other fannish activity as well. Still, others are continuing to try and give Sydney what it deserves - the best in conventions. Many of these are responsible for conventions dating back as far as 1979. Maybe these are the "new fans" you sneeringly refer to. Maybe you'd like to name who are the "stuff ups and losers"?

{{Since I haven't seen anything much come out of Sydney in the past few years, I don't even know the names of those who now consider themselves active fans. Two small relaxacons. An issue of Jack's newszine, and some fanzines from you and Rod. Was there anything else? EL}}

If your opinion of Sydney conventions and Sydney fans is as you describe it here then maybe you shouldn't bother to attend any in future. The last thing Sydney cons need is a whinger. {{Not attending Sydney cons still sounds fine to me. Based on your letter, I doubt I'm likely to be missing many people I couldn't see by going to Galaxy bookshop. EL}}

In the first paragraph of this rave you say, in relation to Syncon 90.

"Since I don't know precisely when it is on, nor precisely where it is on, and have no real idea how to get there anyway, the chances of going to it are declining rapidly."

I find this incredible. Only a week before the convention, Jean phoned me at home. She said she now doubted she would get there. I gave her what I considered fairly detailed instruction.

You even say you don't even know whether the convention was still on. I don't really know what a convention is supposed to do about doubting Thomases. Do we contact everyone now and then to reassure them that the con is still on?

{{A single contact, made by mailing out the second PR the Syncon committee promised, would have sufficed. Having failed to manage one of the things promised, I found it reasonable to wonder if the con committee had managed to complete the other tasks leading to the con. A second PR, as promised, could have also contained useful information, like which rooms or buildings the con had, maybe a map of the campus, and when any known events were scheduled, including meal times and room allocation limitations.

{{A second PR could also have briefly mentioned how to get there, along the lines of "Driving: Gregory's map Reference A1, map 123, UBD map reference B4, map 79, try to avoid going via Penrith, enter University via Windsor Road. Use the Hogpen parking lot as it is closest to the con site." Since it is a pain getting to the con by public transport, you could have given hints there also. "By train, go to Blacktown, change to the Windsor Motor Rail, exit at East Richmond and see if you can find a taxi." "By bus, catch the 123 from Wynyard, change at Pennant Hills to the 345 to Richmond." Or whatever the real methods of getting there might be. Circulation and the last few Melbourne relaxacons have managed to do this sort of thing in a PR; I had no problems with that when running Medventions. I can't understand why Sydney finds it so difficult to attend to minor details. EL}}

What's wrong with the phone, Eric. You know most of the people who were involved in this thing - Rod, Kevin, myself, Dave or even the GoHs themselves.

Furthermore there was the phone call from Jean to me only a week before the event. And there was Dave's call to you to see if you could do a biog of the Clarkes. Jesus, Eric, what more do you want?

{{All I wanted was the PR that was promised! I hate phones, and rarely use them except under extreme provocation. I suspect you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've phoned you, for example, in the decade I've known you. I've often been tempted to remove the phone here, but suspect that Jean would object. I did try to call the GoHs, however they have an unlisted number. I tried phoning Dave, but his number appears to have changed. I found from Ken Ozanne that Dave had said he would visit Ken on the Friday of the con; Dave never turned up. I don't have work numbers for any of the committee, and didn't try phoning until the Friday the con was due, so home numbers were no use. EL}}

jan howard finder

164 Williamsburg Court Albany, NY 12203 USA 23 Sep 1990

Hmm, it is good to hear, that Jack and Cath have landed their first big conference. Maybe that is why I haven't heard from him or anyone else on the SYDNEY IN 95 bid committee. I wrote off to them in early August asking if the bid had folded or was a hoax bid in the first place. To date I haven't received an answer. So I'm folding any of my efforts for the bid. I blew some money I could very much use right now, but c'est la vie! I just received a cheque for presupporting membership and will hold off doing anything about it for another week. I wrote to them on 18 Aug. It has been five weeks and I should have received an answer or a phone call, as I did list my phone number by now. Next week I send back this cheque and one other pre-supporting membership I have received. As the saying goes: We are not pleased! If you see Jack, please tell him I am disappointed in how I have been treated. {{Extracted from a letter to Jean. EL}}

Sydney in 95 meeting

No address given. The next general meeting will be held on 2nd Sept 1990 at the YWCA 5 Wentworth Ave Darlinghurst (City) in Meeting Room 3 from 2 pm. ... Reports advertising (including worldcon) fundraising finances chairman

Bruce Pelz

Tue, 02 Oct 90 09:40 PDT Subject: Gegenschein

For the most part, this is a test to see if I can actually get through {{by email}}, and to thank you for the latest issue of GEG (#58).

With regard to the Sydney Worldcon bid, I'm sorry to hear that there's no real organization in Sydney con-running fandom. I'd like to see an Aussiecon 3, but without a rather GOOD organization, it won't happen. Jack could probably do the job, but he'll have to do more than just send Carey to Worldcon with some flyers and a receipt book for Presupports.

One more use for the Hubbard Drekology: The annual LASFS Christmas Gift Exchange has a "Minimum value" rule, and any of the anonymously contributed but traceable if necessary contributions that don't meet it can be rejected. For years it was a running joke to put in a copy of Karig's Zotz -- available for $.25 in almost any used book store -- and include "crud insurance" (such as a $5.00 bill or a couple good books) to prevent it being rejected. About two years ago someone put in a complete set of the Drekology -- and included crud insurance. Last year, the same set was re-presented, together with (different) crud insurance. I expect it to show up again this year -- the set has become the new Zotz!

Michelle Hallett

GPO Box 1808 Sydney NSW 2001 16 October 1990

Hmm ... your editorial. It strikes me that asking you to be guest of honour at a Con gives you eye trouble. I mean, that was you sitting up front chatting to the crowd at Danse Macabre while Rod Kearins was throwing lollies around to advertise Sydney in '95. Did you think he was advertising the hoax bid? Perhaps it's ear trouble.

No, it's definitely eye trouble. At least it would seem to me to be very difficult to confuse Michelle Muijsert and myself and I was the one who spoke against the motion, arguing for it at the Business Session. Poor thing, just to keep you happy I've enclosed a flyer for Sydney in '95 that you can peruse with your magnifying glass in the safety of your own home. {{I hope to reproduce the flyer here. EL}}

Sydney in 95 Worldcon bid

{{I sent the following to contributors to alt.fandom.cons on Usenet, to evaluate the publicity the Sydney in 95 bid had been getting. These are people following convention fandom closely enough to be writing about Worldcons on Usenet. All the replies follow. EL}}

Since you are obviously following Worldcons, can I ask what you think of the Sydney in 1995 worldcon bid? This is part of an informal poll conducted by an opinonated fan here. I have no association with this bid. Eric Lindsay (former travelling fan) eric at zen maths uts edu au

Evelyn C Leeper

mtgzy!ecl at cbnewsj att com Wed Sep 12 00:45:32 1990

I have no opinion on Sydney yet. I find that I can only juggle one year at a time, so currently I need to evaluate Louisville and Winnipeg (hard to believe that's the choice for 1994, but there you have it).

If it's in Sydney, though, I'm pretty sure we'll go. We've been wanting to go to Australia--this would provide the motivation.

Graham Collins

graham at max sunysb edu Wed Sep 12 03:05:29 1990

Actually, I'm only following worldcons minimally. I couldn't even tell you who won the 1994 bid. I was at Noreascon III, and I would like to make it to Chicago and Orlando.

My remark about Christchurch, Australia versus Chch, NZ was just a tongue-in-cheek correction. (As a Kiwi I prefer not to see New Zealand lumped in as a part of Australia.) (The correct term for the two countries together is "Australasia," and in acronyms, ANZ is standard. e.g. FFANZ is the Australia-New Zealand Fan Fund, analogous to TAFF and DUFF.)

As for Sydney in 1995, I hadn't heard of it until now... Any support I have for it is purely parochial and/or bias toward the underdog/unusual organisation. I know nothing of who is organizing it.

BTW, are you at U Tasmania? (I just noticed the part of your address; sorry if my remarks about Australasia were sending coals to Newcastle (England :-)) I'm working on a novel which is set in part in Tasmania, and I could use some local background like relative locations of U Tasmania, a good hospital, the township of Hobart, etc.

Graham P. Collins, Grad student, fan, and neo-pro.

Alex Ridgway at Tybalt Caltech Edu Tue Sep 11 08:37:

Opinion of Sydney in 1995 bid: None!

(I.e.: I don't know about it, and in general I don't even travel across the country to Worldcons, much less across the sea.)

Perhaps when I graduate to a higher level of consciousne... oops, I mean income, I'd have more to say.

Alastair Reid

areid at cs glasgow ac uk Thu Sep 20 05:03:43 1990

Australia for '95? This is new to me... I was at ConFiction so I'm surprised I missed this... Of course, I know about Glasgow for '95 (several friends are involved and a brother and when/if things get going, I don't see how i'll manage to avoid getting involved too)

Ron Jarrell

jarrell at vtserf cc vt edu Wed Oct 3 07:59:38 1990

Well, I've heard of Sydney, but never heard of their Bid....

Laurie Mann

lmann at bigbootay sw stratus com Tue Sep 18 22:53:49 1990

I've heard of the bid.

I think the 1995 Worldcon will be in Glasgow. Maybe you want to encourage them to bid for 1997.

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A Fanzine for my acquaintances in the SF world

Edited and published by Eric Lindsay

Gegenschein is published whenever the Editor has enough material and time to fill an issue. Comments are encouraged, and should be sent to: Eric Lindsay, 7 Nicoll Avenue, Ryde, NSW 2112 Australia. (obsolete)

Telephone: BH, Mon-Thu (02) 2189651 (Uni Technology, Sydney), AH, Mon-Wed (02) 809 4610 AH, Thu and all day Fri, Sat, Sun, (047) 51 2258

Electronic Mail: eric at eric at eric at zen maths uts edu au(Obsolete)

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Copyright * 1990. All rights returned to the contributors upon publication.

Andy Porter's Hugo winning Science Fiction Chronicle is a monthly newsmagazine, essential reading for those interested in the USA and UK SF and fantasy fields.