Gegenschein 73 January 1996


Thylacon revisited

One question that must be asked is just why a Tasmanian bid won the 1995 National Convention, when voted on in Perth back in 1993?

After all, there were no Tasmanians present, the bidders were from Melbourne. Furthermore, we had experience of the total mess of a Brisbane bid a few years ago, in which the leader of the bid intended to move from Melbourne to Brisbane prior to the con. That person has now departed fandom, leaving behind threats of lawsuits if subject to fannish comments. At that disaster in Brisbane, many, indeed most, interstate fans stayed away. Unfortunately, several suffered money losses from air ticket complications. A few local fans ran a last minute relaxacon, in a fair state of panic, I believe. I had a good time. Many of the long time fans also enjoyed themselves. However, it was totally unfair to new fans, or those not capable of making their own convention.

In January 1995, and even later, Thylacon looked like it was shaping up to be an equal disaster. There was little external sign of action from the Melbourne members of the committee. Indeed, my membership cheque had never been cashed, and when I discovered another fan in the same position, I started wondering if there was going to be a convention. We still wanted to visit Tasmania, and were using the convention as an excuse to do so, so we at least were keen for it to continue.

Jean photo of Jean also wanted to have some Sydney access to GoH Kim Stanley Robinson, with whom she had email correspondence. Through the efficient offices of Kerrie Dougherty, a cheap Saturday afternoon set of talks was arranged at the Powerhouse Museum for the week after the convention.

Laura O'Brien photo of Laura O'Brien started phoning from Tasmania, looking for sympathetic ears, and perhaps some advice. The fancy original hotel seemed to be moving to a position of non-cooperation, and making previously unmentioned demands. We encouraged an immediate move to a cheaper, more central hotel, since there was a suitable one on offer, and since the original Casino hotel could no longer be trusted as to prices.

Once it was clear that the Tasmanian committee members were going to continue the event, we started circulating publicity about it in NSW. We had Apollo Zammit's lists of Australian fans, plus our own, so we mailed out a little under a hundred letters to NSW and ACT fans. Not wanting to waste a postage stamp, we also mailed Intersection and LACon III flyers (I am Australian agent for both these Worldcons), and mentioned (formerly at ) the Futurian Society, and reproduced the first of the Australia in 1999 committee flyers. We dropped these off at the relatively few fannish parties in the period, at Futurian Society meetings, and also at bookshops.

We did have a few responses on Australia in 1999, however the total number of NSW fans at Thylacon was six! I rather think too little publicity, far too late, in NSW. And, to be frank, we really need more help circulating via bookshops, since neither Jean nor I frequent them now.

One question a small, late organised con must face is how it treated new fans. I think Thylacon had excellent results here. True, there were few panels relative to a multi-strand convention. However, there was some sort of panel during most of each day, and some events in the evening. One visible error, the DUFF speeches opposite the GoH reading, was quickly changed to a more viable and visible location after the banquet.

Many first time Tasmanian convention attendees were sufficiently impressed to wish to hold another convention. We can only hope that their enthusiasm can survive the cold hard slog of actually doing the footwork for that future convention.

The banquest itself was excellent, with three courses, more than a sufficiency of food, and a wide range of it. Jean found the idea of venison at a banquet irresistable. Having a decent restaurant in the hotel certainly helps in this area. Pat and Roger Sims, DUFF winners, each gave a short humourous speech, which seemed much appreciated by the diners. Of course, being totally stuffed with food and wine might have contributed towards this.

Although she did not make a speech, another DUFF candidate, Lucy Cohen SchmeidlerLucy Schmeidler (who has appeared in Eidolon recently, and with whom I'd had much email) managed to attend the convention, and visit around Australia. Lucy was somewhat subdued, with one arm only partly healed from a fracture, and was probably finding the irregular attitude towards heating in Australian buildings a problem. We saw Lucy briefly again in Sydney, when she also managed to attend the small party Gerald and WombleWomble and Gerald Smith gave for Pat and Roger Sims the Wednesday after the convention.

Terry Frost Tery Frostwas looking in excellent shape, possibly the result of an unwise bet regarding food. He finally broke his record of losses and won a well deserved Ditmar for best Australian fan writer. Terry's style is unique.

Sean Williams Sean Williamsgave a short talk at the Apphelion launch of a new military and game oriented series of sf novels written in collaboration with Shane Dix. The first novel The Unknown Soldier is reviewed below. I enjoyed it considerably more than I expected.

Tasmanian author Niall Doran was present, with a recent sf comedy The Chronological Adventures of Detrius Thesper on sale, so I got myself an autographed copy and enjoyed reading it.

Excellent and unfortunately convincing GoH speech by Kim Stanley Robinson, Kim Stanley Robinson on the sustainable carrying capacity of the earth. He seems to have studied the matter at considerable length, and concludes that no-one really knows, and the results contradict each other. In such a climate, the problem will be ignored. I am inescapably reminded of growth of bacteria in a culture. If they double each day, and totally fill the dish after 30 days, when did they half fill it? The answer, of course, is on day 29 ... at which point it is a bit late to try to fix up matters.

Peter NichollsPeter Nicholls, resident in Australia after a long absence, was approachable and interesting in his appearances. I was delighted to finally take the opportunity to obtain the more recent Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction. I was also pleased that he finally had an award from within Australia for the fine work done on the latest version of the Encyclopaedia. I'm not sufficiently knowledgable to speak on its merits, however Graham Stone Graham Stone later mentioned to me that it was very accurate (high praise indeed from Graham).

Grant StoneGrant Stone was Grant Stone. I think more Australian conventions should try to convince Grant to attend, as he always rushes round madly when at Perth conventions. When thousands of kilometers away from work he appeared much more relaxed.

Overall, I was very happy about this trip. Had a good time at the convention, and met a whole bunch of new sf fans. What wasn't so good was knowing that the membership didn't exceed 100, despite much efforts at publicity. Also a problem was knowing that, despite the experience of some of the fans involved, the convention (like many recent ones) made a loss. I think we need to get our expectations closer in line with reality ... or at least start some outside fund raising before the conventions.

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Powerhouse Colours of Mars

Saturday 18th June 1995

Jean organised the Kim Stanley Robinson side of this event, with the incredible Kerrie Dougherty doing the Powerhouse arrangements, and providing two more interesting speakers. We did a bunch of flyers, and spread them round the usual suspects. Again, I suspect it was too little, too late. It sometimes appears you have to hit everyone at least three times with different flyers before they respond.

We had only 35 paying attendees, however there were sufficient others to do justice to the 70 seat theatre at the Powerhouse on the afternoon.

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Winter Convention Trip in the USA, June 1994

Blowups Happen

Tuesday 14 June 1994

Monumental bad luck with my not terribly ancient Veridata Optilite notebook computer, which Jean planned to use during the trip. Her Compuserve CIM disk ate the floppy disk drive in a most permanent manner. Then we couldn't even load the new version of the CIM, nor even check that the modem worked on the phone. I hadn't brought a cable (didn't need the Australian one handy, did I, since we would be in the USA where phone sockets were different).

I was most agrieved when I realised that killing a floppy drive on a portable pretty much stuffs up all use of it. If a few more things like this happen, I might get to write a column for Byte, like a certain well known SF writer, and display for all to see how badly I organise my life. Mind you, computer death is about the worst that has happened on any trip, so I can't really complain. I mean, we didn't forget our passports, lose our money, or get hijacked.


Wednesday 15th June 1994

The taxi to the airport took the best part of 50 minutes, and $35, but was a lot better than bussing it, especially with two of us. I was, thanks to comments by Jean, reminded of how I wrecked my Perth trip of a few years ago by putting my back out getting the luggage onto the bus to the airport.

I tried to register my computers with Customs. They looked at the Sharp palmtop and told me that no-one would believe it was new. I think my computer has been insulted.

The UA762 flight kept waiting for Chicago to download their flight information to them; we took off at 11:35, instead of at 11 a.m. for the 13 hour flight. Delays at the start of a flight are just so inspiring. Had I realised the flight was so short, I probably wouldn't have taken four books with me!

After all, as Jean says, this is one of those wonderful flights by which we arrive in San Francisco three hours before we leave Sydney. Real life time travel, complete with jet lag.

Cream vs milk was a minor point on which passengers and stewardess were not talking the same language (thus showing how bored we all were). Jean won't order cream on US internal flights, as it usually turns out to be some chemical mess labelled non-diary whitener. On the international flight, cream was milk, and most Australian passengers wanted their milk diluted with some tea. One stewardess offered us all cordial, thus confusing us a lot, until we realised the term was used instead of liqueur. Cordial appeared known in California, so I simply seem to have missed that term in my travels.

Early morning US Customs were painless, and we were seeking the National car hire shuttle bus soon after a successful tilt at the US phone system. The concept of picking any car from an entire row was a little startling to us, but when we realised they were actually all the same brand, it seemed we might just as well choose by colour, so we got a red one, just like we were used to.

Jean coped very well with the freeway system, which was only a block from the car hire place, and two hours after landing, we were talking with Louis Bookbinder. What is a fan to look at first, if not bookshops?

The bookshop on the Stanford University campus is a monster, with an impressive array of computer books. I was most tempted by some of the O'Reilly books on TeX and on TCP/IP, but decided not to strain my already overfull luggage. We had been warned that Stacey's was a disaster for your wallet, and I was even more impressed here. I thought I already had all three available books on Rexx, but they had six dfferent Rexx books on hand! Luckily two were too specialised to attract me, and one seemed too expensive for the slim material covered, so I still resisted the lure of the place.

Donna Bookbinder arrived just after midday, and as Jean had expressed a preference for salad, we went to Stanford Mall and a place called Fresh Choice where an all you could eat salad cost $7.12. I was impressed.

Alyson AbramowitzAlyson Abramowitz, with whom we would be staying, gave instructions on how to find Michael Wallis, who would lead us to Alyson's new home. Michael turned out to be a fanzine fan from a decade or so ago, and (not totally surprisingly) to be another technophile, so I had a good time talking with him about Linux, and uucp breakages (not that I know anything about uucp) and looking at, until Jean brought us back to the business at hand. I was very impressed by the removable hard disk holders he had in his computer, as I'd long thought of getting similar myself.

Michael was able to give me a lot more background on the Douglas X10 rocket prototype tests, and tell me how I could get even more detail. That was fun.

Michael talked about using hydrogen peroxide and JP5 to fuel an amateur rocket to boost a 20 pound payload using a 120 pound composite plastic framed empty vehicle structure filled with 2600 pounds of fuel. It would be 12 feet high and about 3.5 feet diameter, if I recall the figures. Imagine a possible single stage to orbit amateur rocket. Apart from the high strength low mass composite frame, the secret is high density fuels rather than low density. Like most people, I'd always assumed you absolutely had to have high specific impulse fuels. However stuff like hydrogen forces a very large fuel tank, which stuffs up your mass ratio. A high density fuel equals better mass ratio at worse specific impulse, and this might be a winner.

Alyson Abramowitz prepared an enormously elaborate dinner, with shellfish and prawns and rice, and a fruit pie dessert after. It was delicious, although I'm not sure two tired travellers really did it justice. Jean said I shouldn't help with anything requiring cooking skills, so I merely provided a contribution towards my addiction to Coca Cola.

Although Jean retired round ten, we talked till midnight. Don't know if I made any sense, as I'd been awake 34 hours by then. I rather fear I was fading rather badly by that time (about 7 a.m. by my internal clock).

Silicon Valley

Thursday 16th June 1994

Jean and I were not up early, however we did manage a morning walk to Central Computer Systems at 820 Kiely Boulevard, Santa Clara, where I got a phone cable, and two of their gadgets for turning hard drives into removeable drives. I've long faunched for these, and they turned out to be better constructed than I expected, and even included a padded carry bag. There goes another $86.12 on the Visa card!

Despite our walk, we were back at Alyson's before midday, ready for Robin, our next visitor, who was late. I didn't mind the break personally. It let me type in the first of this report. Which explains why the first part is detailed, and the latter bits far less so.

We visited a large Apple complex, where I overspent at the Computer Literacy bookshop (Insiders Guide to Power PC $29.95, Unix Networking $29.95, PowerPC 601 MPU $9.95, Build Data Acquisition Devices $19.95, Visa $97.25) and then checked out The Company Store, where they had Newton PCMCIA 1 mb static ram cards for $59, which tempted me greatly (if only I knew whether it would work in my Sharp PC-3100!). I went back late Friday and bought one for $59 plus tax. Alas, it showed no sign whatsoever of working. Indeed the PCMCIA card (the standard you use when you don't have a standard) didn't work in anything I tried it in until I got my Lexicomp LC8620 palmtop, in which it worked fine.

Jean's friend Robin treated us to lunch at a different Fresh Choice salad bar, then Robin took us (well, mostly for me) to gigantic computer stores, including CompUSA, Fry's, and Weird Stuff Warehouse. Alas, I was unable to find any 1/3rd height floppy disk drives to repair my recently broken notebook, and after some search found PCMCIA memory cards, but none nearly as cheap as the ones at The Company Store. I did think to get a Grip It strip for $8.61 for my palmtop computer, so I have a receipt with their Infinite Loop address on it.

Robin and Jean wanted to talk, so they were happy to tell me to wander round the computer stores and not bother them. I think I mostly managed to keep out of the way.

Alyson and Jean organised an AWA and associates meeting, so I was thrown out for a pub crawl that evening, with Michael J Ward doing the driving and Rich McAllister and Bob Doyle. We hadn't thought of the presence of other fandoms, and found most of the visible pubs full of Irish soccer fans (a month of soccer games were to begin the next day). Had fine pork ribs before the search began, moved from one overcrowded pub to a small mostly empty one, and were driven out by a loud band appearing. We finally drove to Palo Alto, went through the same routine, and eventually found a quiet pub for a last drink. Dinner was under $20, which seemed reasonable considering that I managed to get ribs. Good US ribs are a real favourite of mine.

It sometimes seems everyone in fandom is working for a computer company.

Friday 17th June 1994

We set out for a shopping mall, so that Jean could look for clothes. Didn't even have much trouble with the roads, as our two mistakes counteracted each other, and we ended up outside the mall parking lot in any case. Sometime in the future, we shall pretend we planned it that way.

While Jean shopped, I checked out the Museum Company, Brookstones, and The Sharper Image. To my delight, The Sharper Image had a palmtop that appeared similar to the old MS-DOS 5 and Microsoft Works version sold by Philips, and a number of other companies. I didn't buy the original, because it had only a 1 megabyte file system, and the keyboard wasn't great.

This model is still a little large, but it does have some of the essential equipment, namely serial and parallel ports, and two PCMCIA card slots (Type II this time), and has a 386SX 25MHz processor. It sounds like you can still bypass the command shell but the user manual had insufficient contents to be certain. ROM is 2 megabyte, and ram 2 megabyte up to 4 megabyte, depending on model. This is a very good sign, as far as I'm concerned. At US$999 it is a bit expensive, but that may change with time. At least I now have a potential way to replace my very battered Sharp PC-3100 palmtop computer, an option I've not previously had.

My shopping consisted of a semi-satisfactory steak and salad at the Food Court, and a bargain priced pair of Easy Walker shoes at Kinney. I must buy some more pairs. To foreshadow, these shoes became an addiction (details, with pictures, in Secret Perversions of the Fans).

We navigated back to Alyson's home, and prepared to visit Jean's friends Doug and Verna for dinner and relaxed conversation until 11. The navigating was a little involved, but otherwise we had a fine evening. Alyson was again cooking when we returned, preparing for the party the following day. A full social season was in swing, as it seems is always the case.

Saturday 18th June 1994

Alyson took us to the traditional Dim Sum, where Neil Rest turned up with Julie, and Alyson's former roommate Jim. Great food, with a wider variety than I expected. Neil was in fine form on his travel experiences. He still looks just like he did when I last saw him, and much the same as when he was last in Australia, two decades ago. I wish I could manage that.

Party at Donya White and Alan Baum's place in Palo Alto on Cornell Street, near Stanford University, Japanese style. We arrived before it really warmed up, and there were already perhaps 30 people there. Not knowing many of the local fans, I talked mainly with techies, while Jean found David Bratman and Berni Phillips. Just as we were leaving Jeanne Bowman, Art Widner and Neil Rest all turned up in separate cars. I kept feeling there were fans there I should have recognised.

One visitor talked about Xanadu, the interesting Ted Nelson hyperinfo system that Chip Morgenstar first introduced me to during a long drive to a con way back in 1982. It turns out that Andrew Pam in Australia is getting the code for porting purposes. Sounds like a monster, with a 7 hour compile on a Sun Sparc 2, and 7.5 megabyte excutable.

Lots of navigating to the home of Ted and Barb, Jean's sister, however our instructions were equal to the task.

We were welcomed with wonderful marguritas from Barb, using a Jose Cuervo mix, and limes. Naturally you can't get that in Australia. (No longer true - a Silverwater importer has started bringing the stuff in at ruinous expense.) This was followed by avocado dip (which I'm convinced I can find in Australia, and must search for again). Ted then produced BBQ chicken, so we ate and drank exceedingly well, but in view of what was in front of us, perhaps not wisely, late into the night.

Sunday 19th June 1994

A wonderful brunch starting at 10 and lasting until nearly midday at the Boundary Oak country club. The spread they put on was incredible; no way could one eat through a sample of it in one visit. I had been told about that place by Jean for years, and must admit it lived up to its billing. I hope I get the chance to try that again. Preferably after starving for a day or so!

Swimming in Barb and Ted's pool in the mid afternoon, and testing the Australia in 1999 platypus, along with the dinosaurs, and many other pool toys. I stayed in long enough to get wrinkled, but think I may have avoided sunburn.

We tried walking off the food with a wander around the area in the early evening, looking at the fine homes in the area.

Ate the rest of Ted's fine BBQ chicken that evening (the secret is to microwave it 3/4 of the way before you BBQ, thus retaining the moisture and not drying it out).

Chicago, Chicago

Monday 20th June 1994 1994

We packed early for the trip to the airport, and this was a good thing, as the route back to the National car hire spot took over an hour due to congestion in some spots. Next time we must remember to get a map of the airport area from the car hire place, not just the area we will be visiting.

Jean set out for Seattle, while I set off for flight 808, the 1:10 p.m to Chicago. It looked exceedingly crowded on this Monday flight, and sat on the tarmac for an extra hour, waiting for Chicago to clear it past the thunderstorms. The vegetable lasagna wasn't to my liking, and I tend to blame it for my subsequent queasy stomach, however I did read most of Nancy Kress's award winning novel Beggars in Spain during the flight (not effect and cause - as far as I can tell).

We arrived in Chicago a half hour late, and I was met by Dick Smith, who had amused himself by directing passengers to their destinations (probably at least as sucessfully as the airline people did).

Leah wasn't allowing us home until she had made space (a task at which I had never succeeded), so we ate a super pizza at Edwardo's (and my stomach was unhappy), and then visited Powell's bookstore (my stomach still unhappy - I still blame the airline lasagna) where Dick found me a copy of Sharyn McCrumb's send-up of sf fandom, the murder mystery Zombies of the Gene Pool.

We managed to cover a fair bit of Australia in 1999 business during the scenic tour of Chicago and in an hour or two of sitting down with Leah later. Max the Terror Cat demonstrated his ability to levitate to the top of a tall building stet bookcase and curl up in a fruit bowl. I think he just wants attention (and to rule the world). By which time it was after two a.m. and time to collapse.

Momentous things we did decide included:

Tuesday 21st June 1994

Lots and lots of alarms, from about 7:30 a.m. on. See previous trip reports for details of the alarms. They are a feature, not a bug. Of course, at that time in the morning, hardly anyone (include those who set them) thinks of them as a feature.

At least I got some laundry done, and rationalised my bags slightly.

Still looking for a null modem cable, 1/3rd height floppy drive, Kiney's Easy Walker shoes, and tropical no-iron shirts. What a silly list.

When Leah returned from work we were off to a SFRA planning meeting for a convention, at Betty Ann Hull and Frederik Pohl's home. It was good to see both of them again.

Afterwards we eventually found a CompUSA store, where Leah was lured by lurid gadgets, and I managed to restrict myself to a single null modem cable.

Off to Northrop to pick up Dick, and then to a rib place, where Lynn Aronson and Phylis and Alex Eisenstein were meeting us. We managed a place in the bar, and were on our second drink when they arrived.

Reminders about Ain99. Academic stream, smaller masquerade, tax and customs implications of the art show (Ron and Gerald)

Need to ask Jean about party room at Westercon. No, no, a thousand times no! Well, that was a straightforward answer.

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Wednesday 22nd June 1994

Up late, then Leah took me on a leisurely drive and we had a fine high cholesterol breakfast of fried eggs. At least I could recall some of the US cooking terminology, and could order successfully, without a translator.

A few adventures at the airport, as I hadn't realised I needed to move to terminal 2, and it took a few minutes to locate the train. No real problem, I was at the gate about ten minutes prior to boarding. Although we had a slight delay (no starter) we reached Cincinnati an hour (and one time change) later.

Roger Sims and Dick Spellman were waiting for me at the gate, and we were soon off on a course that took us from Kentucky (where the Cincinnati, Ohio airport is located), though Illinois and finally into Ohio, to the Sims' home to drop off the luggage. Then we dined at the Outback steakhouse, which boosts a Australian theme (but luckily not Australian food). I again tried the ribs, and they were even better than in Chicago. We also visited the Cincinnati computer store. I think there is getting to be a recurring theme to this trip.

Phoned Bill Bowers, Don Carter, Al Curry, Jackie Causgrove.

Talked with Pat Sims.

Thursday 23 June 1994

Went for a walk in the morning with Pat and Roger, and afterwards checked out a computer store with cheap second hand computers.

Checked out why Roger couldn't email me on the Internet from Compuserve, and also why his Panasonic printer wasn't being driven exactly right from Windows 3.1. Couldn't see an appropriate printer driver. I later got the correct printer driver in Australia and sent it over to Roger.

Went with Roger as we sought out limes for marguritas, and failed to find limes in Sam's. I did spot the latest version of Roger's printer, and note that it now came with a proper printer driver. Gave Roger hints on how to get a copy.

Helped Dick Spellman unload and set up the con suite for Midwestcon.

Talked with Dal Coger's wife about Australia literature. Dave Locke Jackie Causgrove Mike Glicksohn Susan Manchester Al Curry Lloyd Eshbach books Larry Smith on Internet, Campbell letters from Larry Smith, who is now also on the Internet. Roy Lavender (fixed his address) engineer, talked of things built.

Friday 24 June 1994

Names recalled. Bill Bowers. Ben Zuhl. Ben Yalow. Bruce Pelz. Mark Olson, who provided a disk of Worldcon numbers. Jane and Scott Dennis sold You are here Your luggage is over here T shirts, which I now wear when boarding airlines. They also had demon puppets, which I wanted for my front door.

Bruce Schnier sold me a (discount) copy of his new book on cryptography. I had seen a review in Dr Dobbs, decided I wanted to pick up a copy sometime, and totally missed connecting the name of the author to anyone I know.

Lloyd Eshbach on jewelery, and cutting stones, before I wandered off for breakfast and shopping. The Dove chocolates I found in Walmark were popular.

Mundane noise complaint, after the hotel put someone in the wrong block. Idiots. I thought Dick Smith would punch him.

The room next to mine partied until 3 a.m. That will teach the mundanes to stay on the party floor!

Saturday 25 June 1994

Looked at what I thought was a purse store, but it was a Goodwill type instead. Why would a Goodwill store window be full of purses?

I tended to leave my room open even before scheduled parties, to encourage small groups of visitors. It seemed to work. We had a FLAP party, which included phoning Bob Tucker who had suffered a heart attack while going to another convention and for once couldn't attend Midwestcon.

Banquet (pretty good) (excellent in fact), with Bill Cavin relegated to last in line (joke), and Mike Resnick providing bathroom humour (well, it was the speech, and the bathrooms were ones encountered while on safari in Africa. I thought some of the audience were going to roll in the aisles.

The Ain99 party. Dick and Leah doing vast amounts of work. We were about the last to close, at 5 a.m. Now that is how you do a party.

Sunday 26 June 1994

Roger Reynolds turned up, not in good shape. One of several con attendees in wheelchair. It reminded me that the Ain99 team must ensure we have facilities for fans with mobility problems.

Old friends Don and Tanya Carter, a long way from the con, took me to Fore and Aft and we had a great quantity of food. They had another exchange student on hand. Dinner was interrupted by an exceedingly dramatic storm that fascinated me, the river surface went from placid to distorted in seconds, May flies vanished, and we had to retreat from lightning. We talked about video capture and manipulation, and UFO books, before returning to the con. The dead dog party included Bruce Pelz, Roger Sims, John and Joni Stopa.

Monday 27 June 1994

Awake all night (fear of alarm failure - all systems worked) for 6 a.m. rising, and 7 a.m. shuttle, together with Lloyd Eshback. He told me of the law suit against Charlie Brown of Locus and Verna Smith by the publisher of a rip-off comic of the Lensman series, after that publisher went out of business. It was thrown out of court, but they had the expense of fighting it, and the ex-publisher didn't have money for costs.

I was wearing the new T shirt Scott and Jane Dennis had sold me. One of the stewardsses kept bringing others up to view it. It showed the galaxy with a "You are here" sign, and a pointer thousands of light years distant labelled "Your luggage is here".

Too busy at United's Chicago gateway. I had to visit five sites before I could even locate an unocupied loo. I'd have hated to be desperate, rather than simply preparing for a continuing flight. I hate flying through there.

Finally reached Seattle, where Jean met me, and showed me how to reach the bus to Lacey.

Reached Milton and Carolyn Weber's home at Panorama City round 2 p.m. It is a splendidly artistic home, with paintings everywhere. I guess I should have realised, considering how many of her mother's paintings Jean has on her walls.

I was very tired from lack of sleep. Watched videos of 8 mm films of the Weber early days, including bits of Jean doing all manner of horseback riding. I sort of knew she had been on a horse, but didn't realise it extended to precision riding.

Tuesday 28th June 1994

Walked over to inspect the Weber RV, a large and thoughtfuly appointed vehicle. I really liked the idea of an RV, but suspect it is a long way in my future. Jean sensibly points out that, however much I like the idea of the freedom of the road, I don't actually like driving. In fact, I don't often like going outside the house!

Looked at the hobby and administration area of Panarama City, which is an impressive community. I like the idea. Cashed $300 more in Traveller's Checks.

Jean and I then walked the mile or so to the local shopping centre and got Hallmark talking greeting cards, and more Reebok walking shoes. Not to mention some Dove chocolate and some Pez candy.

Dinner at a fine waterside restaraunt, Genoas, that had the best (and largest) salmon steaks I've ever tried.

Afterwards we viewed slides of half the Alaska trip Jean's parents had recently taken. Looked interesting, as Alaska is one of the few US states I've never visited.

Wednesday 29th June 1994

Again Jean and I walked to the local shopping mall, and extended our walk somewhat for the exercise value. At the local Office Supply Depot we found a variety of electronic typewriters with daisy wheels, and some Smith Corona and some Brother models had ASCII standard (MS-DOS 720k) disk drives. I was very interested (for a typewriter for loccing) and Jean was enquiring on behalf of Lyn McConchie. We also drooled at some laser printers, but the prices were not really all that much better than back home.

At the Future Shop we drooled over more fancy gear, but restricted our actual buys to a portable CD player (for me), and a miniature cassette recorder (for Jean), both much cheaper than similar, different brands, back home.

I then needed to visit Fred Meyer for some CD disks with which to test my new player. Alas, the "classic" section was small indeed, and I had to look long to find anything I didn't already have in the mere 30 disks I had at home. In compensation, the prices were an average of $4 each, so I wasn't too unhappy.

The shoe stores were a disappointment. Two were cheap, and contained fairly junky shoes. One was small, and very exclusive, and I didn't want to pay their prices.

We finally got back round 12:30, having initially claimed (at 9:30) that we wouldn't be all that long on our walk.

We lazed round in the afternoon, had a home cooked meal including cherry pie and ice cream, talked by phone with Janice Murray, who has done so much to help publicise A in 99 in this area, and watched the rest of the Alaska slides. I'm not sure I'd like to visit Alaska (some slides showed cold stuff), but it was nice to see how beautiful the country is.

Thursday 30th June 1994

Up somewhat early for Jean, to be ready for our 9 a.m. bus to Seattle.

Wait at SeaTac terminal for Marilyn Holt, who collected us round 11.15. Travel can be so boring. If you have enough books on hand to keep up your reading, your luggage is too heavy to move.

Drove all over the place, walked a little to see the view at Magnolia, then watched the ship locks open. That was different. I waited to see if any of the people mucking around were going to fall in the water, but was disappointed.

Marilyn took us to Ray's seafood, where the salmon burger was too big to eat, something not entirely unexpected to me in US restaurants by now. If I ate more than one restaurant meal a day in the USA, I'm sure I'd soon burst, like that scene in Monty Python.

Walked 4 miles round the lake in afternoon with Jean, in only 1 1/2 hours. Our hosts probably thought us mad.

We dined at Eleanor and Buz Busby's that evening, together with Marilyn, Clifford Wind, and Cory.

Talked with John D Berry by phone a few times, but couldn't organise a meeting. As age catches up on us, we all seem to get jobs that leave us little time to goof off. On the other hand, sometimes such jobs are more interesting than the sort from which we try to escape.


Friday 1 July 1994

Talked with Clifford in the morning, and somehow we always seem to degenerate into computer talk.

Marilyn took us to the airport at 10:30 for the Los Angeles flight. They have been wonderfully helpful to us on so many visits now.

Arrived round four, and manned the Australia in 99 bid table to relieve Dick and Leah, who already had vast numbers of things organised.

Tried to find food, settled on chicken salad from Carl, Jr, which was almost edible, but not worth seeking.

Peter Edick, motorcyclist and fair-weather sailor turned up, so we had a talk in the bar.

Saturday 2 July 1994

Marilyn Fuzzy Pink Niven, at Green Room where she was in charge, commented on what we have all independently discovered, how hotel staff cause fewer problems when well tipped.

Don Fitch, long time Australian bid supporter, catered our bid party, doing a wonderful job, far beyond anything that I'd have been able to manage.

Panel with Noel Wolfman, and Wolf Foss, on the size of cons. I am dead against trying to increase the size of cons. Larger cons require disproportionate amounts of administration, and you run into all sorts of diseconomies of scale. One of them is lack of sufficiently large facilities under one roof. Better, I believe, to break up cons into sizes where each interest group has its own convention. This has been happening. Look at ReaderCon, CostumeCon, the World Fantasy Convention, Corflu and Ditto, and so on. When you do have a "general" convention, let it be for those who have a heavy interest in each area that appears at a con, not those whose interests are primarily in a single area. For Worldcons outside the USA, this is a particular problem. It is difficult to find a site that has sufficient facilities to run a large convention under one roof. When you do, there is little competition, so costs are sky high. My gut feeling is that either Worldcon contracts when outside the USA, or else those outside will have to give up bidding, for lack of suitable sites.

Elevator con, 10 fans stranded for 25 minutes, until firemen released the doors. Now that was an exclusive con! I was there, and I have the badge to prove I was one of the ten.

Our Ain99 party. Total exhaustion ... and Dick and Leah have been running innumerable of these. I noticed Carl Nelson, Michael L Citrak, Norwestcin 18 chairman, Gillian Horvath, Samuel Edward Konkin III and many others, but there was no time for notes as we glad handed everyone who appeared.

A birthday chant at a party may your deeds with swords and ax match your deeds with ewes and yaks. Sometimes the fantasy folks get things exactly right.

Sunday 3rd July 1994

Talked with Larry Niven in Green Room, re previous problems with GoH, including the "Mote ..." incident, in which a box of Mote were returned unopened when sent to Australia in 1975. Mentioned changes in distribution laws on books, which mean US titles have a much better chance of timely distribution in Australia.

A in 99 party again in the evening. Two parties? My notes say so. I don't recall a thing about it.

Monday 4th July 1994

More pre-supporting membership sales, before we packed it all up.

A 16 mile bicycle ride brought Jean's friend Dave Dismore to visit us after the con closed. Then, in total exhaustion, we went to the airport at 7.30 p.m. for the evening flight back to Australia.

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New Books Reviewed

I keep forgetting to mention Eidolon, the West Australian Journal of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, now in its fifth year, and up to issue 17/18. This has maintained consistently high standards of fiction over this time, publishing many established names, and others who are now becoming better known elsewhere. It has also had a continuing interest in the history and anlaysis of SF in Australia, with much material by Sean McMullen and others on these topics. Subscriptions are available from PO Box 225, North Perth, WA 6006. Four issue (one year) subscriptions are A$27.80, overseas A$45 (air), A$35 (surface). The www address again was

Baxter, Stephen, Flux

Harper Collins, 1994, 366pp, A$12.95

Baxter has done several novels in which beings engineered from humans live in exceedingly strange environments. Such environments provide a totally different set of surroundings, based very loosely on high energy physics. In this novel, humans live in the mantle of a star. They see magnetic flux, disturbed electron gas, animals move with superfluid jetfarts. Well, despite the high tech terminology, this read just like another fantasy quest novel. I haven't liked any of Baxter's stories, except his steampunk ones. Your mileage may vary.

Brosnan, John, The Opoponax Invasion

VGSF, 1994, 223pp, A$12.95

Mid 23rd Century, and everyone is wired into the Net from birth. One man (or perhaps a woman) has become an electronic chameleon, able to manipulate any computer, thanks to enhanced bionanotech from a dead genius. Hunted by the IRS, he (or she) stands between Earth and an alien invasion. Not the most coherent or serious story, but a lot of fast paced fun.

Busby, F M, Arrow from Earth

AvoNova, 1995, 418pp, US$5.50

Starships from Earth make their way towards possible distant planets, resupplied by matter transmission that requires a gateway at each end. One gateway is on Earth, the others on each starship. Even the crews can be rotated home. One technical hitch is that although transmission is subjectively instantaneous, it takes two years before you emerge from the other gateway, regardless of distance. Throw in terrorists on Earth, escaped mutineers, and strange and possibly alien entities inside the gates, and you have the makings of problems.

Newly promoted Captain Allaird is soon due to transfer to the Arrow, now completing its multi-year boost phase without crew. His young daughter needs to escape from a threat on Earth, so he sends her to the safest place on Earth, through the gate to Arrow. Complications follow, and a long involved story. Good stuff, probably specially appealing to teenage readers.

Cabeen, R. Payne, Tainted Treats

Streamline Pictures, 1994, 208pp, US$12.95

Fred Patten delivered this strange book during his visit here. Five poems, three stories, one novella, all contained in a nicely studied set of illustrations on the theme of ants and food. The material is horror. The subject of the horror is food. This is a book to put you right off your dinner, starting with the cover illustration. Macabre.

Connell, Alan, Lords of Serpent Land

Graham Stone, GPO Box 4440, Sydney 2001, 188pp, A$30 HC

Graham says he had the printed pages prior to moving, but has only bound them recently. This is the first single volume publication of the three works Lords of Serpent Land,, Warriors of Serpent Land, and Prisoners of Serpent Land, originally published by Currawong, Sydney in 1945. As such, this specialised reprint is probably the only way most people can ever obtain a copy of this early piece of Australian fantasy fiction.

Appears to be hand bound in green library cloth, blue tape spine, with silver lettering.

Collins, Paul, Metaworlds

Penguin, 1994, 220pp, A$14.95

Twelve SF stories from Australian authors, selected on the basis of awards made by readers and editors. Paul Collins has long produced very handy collections of Australian SF as an independent publisher. This Penguin collection is a valuable addition to the library of any Australian SF collector.

Includes Greg Egan's Learning to Be Me, a macabre and disturbing analysis of identity. Other authors are David Lake, Dirk Strasser, Leanne Frahm, Terry Dowling, Jack Wodhams, Stephen Dedman, Damien Broderick, Rosaleen Love, Paul Collins' The Wired Kid, Sean McMullen's An Empty Wheelhouse, and George Turner's I Still Call Australia Home, which became part of Genetic Soldier.

Doran, N E, The Chronological Adventures of Detrius Thesper

Desdichado Publishing, PO Box 310, Sandy Bay, Tas 7006, 1994, 173pp

The author was selling this strange sf comedy at Thylacon. If you like Douglas Adams and/or Robert Rankin, you probably will enjoy this strange piece of nonsense.

Forward, Robert L and Julie Forward Fuller, Rescued from Paradise

Baen, April 1995, 344pp, US$5.99

The crashed human and flouwen party on Eden had managed to survive and thrive in their new environment, and brought up their children to regard it as home. The intelligent plants had become their friends, to the extent that their different sense of time permitted. They had aided each other through natural disasters. Then the second expedition arrives, from a radically different Earth. Conflict of some sort is inevitable. If you enjoyed the earlier books, you will want to read this also.

Hambley, Barbara, Children of the Jedi

Bantam (Transworld), July 1995, 245pp, A$29.95 hc

President of the SFFWA takes the Star wars characters on a wild adventure searching for the long lost children, hidden by an earlier generation of Jedi Knights to escape the Emperor. Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca search an ancient stronghold, and dodge remnants of the Empire with their own plans. Luke is drawn to a long lost automated dreadnaught, Eye of Palpatine, as it is about to complete a decades old task of destruction that had already lured and destroyed one Jedi Knight.

Barbara Hambley is an excellent inventive writer in her own right, and seems to me to handle the characters and the action at exactly the correct level for Star Wars enthusiasts.

Kelly, James Patrick, Wildlife

Tor, July 1995, 299pp, US$4.99

Stylish cyberpunk and bio-tech spread over multiple generations (except some characters live an overlong time. I didn't think the author pulled it off, however it was a wild ride for a while there. Try it.

McCaffrey, Anne, The Dolphins of Pern

Bantam (Transworld), July 1995, 300pp, A$19.95 Trade paper

I mentioned the $29.95 hardcover, released in November, last issue. This is the same typesetting, in a trade paperback format. Story of pet dolphins, newly rediscovered as part of the two thousand year old introduced fauna of Pern. Not bad, but basically for completists.

McMullen, Sean, Mirror Sun Rising

Aphelion, 1995, 332pp, A$14.95

Book two of Greatwinter. Although anyone who uses any electrical device is struck down by violence from the sky, not all knowledge of the technology of the distant past is lost. Nor are the constant waves of mindlessness that sweep across the continent impossible obstacles to building a civilisation.

The Highliber of Libris has a calculor, built of human components. With it, she is positioning herself to rule the continent. However an escaped component has built a rival calculor, and knowledge of the shortcoming of the calculor are becoming known to rival military strategists, and there are many enemies.

Meanwhile, in space, an ancient artifact rebuilds itself, ready to fulfil an age old purpose that all have forgotten. And the unreachable orbital forts, equally ancient, still strive to destroy any attempt to use electronic devices anywhere on earth.

Some sweeping, and unexplained concepts, and a vividly realised and strange new world indeed, populated by brawling, often larger than life characters. I've enjoyed both books tremendously, and look forward to the next, wherein we can hope to have the last of the loose ends resolved.

Middleton, Martin, the New Dawn

Pan Macmillen fantasy, 28 July 1995, 398pp, A$13.95

Book six of the Chronicles of the Custodians. Once more into the tired old cliches we rush, where the forces of darkness battle with light for possession of legendary weapons (whose names indicate they belong in museums). Oh yes, there are more bloody rings of power, more princes prancing, and more medieval societies.

While applauding the success of an Australian author in selling this sort of stuff, I heartily wish that none of these people had ever read Tolkein. Well, at least this is the last book in this trilogy.

Pratchett, Terry, Soul Music

Corgi (Transworld), June 1995, 378pp, A$11.95

I can't explain why I enjoy these Discworld novels, with their totally unrealistic fantasy, while loathing Rankin's absurdist novels. Perhaps because Terry Pratchett tends to introduce classic literary figures, while Rankin uses 1960's pop culture, an era I managed to entirely ignore.

However, this time Pratchett has Music With Rocks In (it is on account of the Troll, I suppose), and a Buddy Holly revival, and music that occupies a young musician's soul so forcefully that even Death takes a holiday.

The Musician's Union doesn't like it either. In fact, they might have to hire some Assasins to fix things. Dibbler likes it; he has discovered idiots will buy name brand T shirts.

Of course, it might be that Death is simply a little afflicted with existential malaise, so it is just as well his grand-daughter is willing to take some time out of school to look after the collections. Bit of a pity she falls in love with the musician, of course, as that does complicate things. Very funny, as always.

Priest, Christopher, The Book on the Edge of Forever

Fantagraphics Books, June 1994, 56pp, US$7.95

This interesting piece of political commentary from Chris Priest is blurbed as the facts, the figures, and the delusions behind Harlan Ellison's never-published anthology The Last Dangerous Visions. Obviously, anything about Harlan Ellison has the potential to be controversial, and given the quality and success of the original Dangerous Visions anthologies, expectations about the never published final volume were high.

The majority of this text has long been available on the Internet, and in Priest's fanzine Deadloss. Those small bits of it that I could check from my own resources (the quotes from Dick Geis' The Alien Critic and Charlie Brown's Locus) were accurate. On balance I would have to admit that I don't believe there are major factual errors in the essay.

That said, it must be mentioned that Priest is himself an SF writer who has done some excellent innovative novels, and who had sold a story to TLDV. To some extent, he does have an ax to grind. I have heard through fannish gossip that the present publisher of this essay also had an agenda. Despite any possible personal motives, the fact remains that The Last Dangerous Visions does not exist.

The conclusion appears to be that the job was simply too massive for any one person to complete, no matter how sincere their original intentions. Perhaps it never will be. But wouldn't it be wonderful to read some of those stories, to see how they stand up against those original taboo breaking anthologies, and to see how time changes our own perceptions of what is taboo?

The book is available from the publisher, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115 USA. The author can be emailed at cpriest at cix compulink co uk The book is neatly printed, layout is nicely done, and the sequence of illustrations on each page raises a small smile.

I think I should add a Harlan Ellison story. Everyone in fandom seems to have Harlan Ellison stories, but I've only met the man in passing at conventions. However, I do know some Australian authors and artists who have been invited to Harlan's home, been advised and assisted in their careers by him. They have nothing but praise for him, and as far as I know, he has not publicised the help he has so freely given.

Rankin, Robert

Doubleday Corgi

I basically can't stand Robert Rankin's absurd novels, and haven't read any of them since the first few appeared. Perhaps people more impressed by icons of the '60's will like them better. The ones just released are The Most Amazing Man Who Lived (Doubleday - Transworld, July 1995, 267pp, A$29.95 hardcover), and The Greatest Show Off Earth (Corgi Transworld, July 1995, 318pp, A$11.95).

Sterling, Bruce, Globalhead

Bantam, Dec 1994, 339pp, US$5.99

Thirteen stories set in near and highly unusual futures by one of the better known cyberpunk authors. Some wild and unusually stories in this highly recommended collection.

Sussex, Lucy, Deersnake

Hodder and Stoughton Starlight, 1994, 210pp, A$

Aimed at teenage readers, a thoughtful story most suited as a gift to a child. Nice to see a novel that doesn't write down to the audience, and that assumes they have read other books before.

Turner, George, Genetic Soldier

AvaNova, July 1995, 403pp, US$5.50

Set long after the events of the overpoulated, polluted future depicted in The Destiny Makers. A starship returns unsuccesful from a seven hundred year search for habitable planets, only to find that humans have solved all the problems those on the ship had fled. They encounter a stable untroubled society, with no place for the inhabitants of the ship, and a society at risk from their return.

Vornholt, John, Babylon 5 #1 Voices

Dell Transworld, May 1995, 246pp, A$9.95 US$5.50

Well priced tie-in novel with the hard to find TV series being hidden very late in the evening. Seemed well enough written, albeit somewhat confusing, and presumes a familiarity with the characters that I lack. Fans of the TV series will probably enjoy it.

A telepaths' conference provides security problems, when someone wants to plant bombs. The resident telepath is the chief suspect, and her friends on B5 can't openly aid her as she flees the station. The characters seemed to be described reasonably well, despite some suspicious lacks of motive for some actions. Fine as a space cop adventure.

Williams, Sean and Shayne Dix, The Unknown Soldier

Aphelion/Ascendency, 1995, 361pp, A$14.95

Book One of The Cogal, where cyborgs and flawed mind readers seek the meaning of a war fought over three hundred years before. This holds up well as a military adventure, and as a quest.

Wilson, Robert Charles, Mysterium

Bantam, March 1995, 309pp, US$5.99

A small US town disappears from our universe, and appears in the wilderness of a less developed USA. There, religious dictatorship, secret police, and curfews greet them. Some of the townsfolk are valued for their possible technical and military knowledge, but mostly they are a disruptive element in a stable, if embattled, society where ordinary citizens live in fear of saying the wrong thing in the hearing of the authorities.

The story follows the reactions of ordinary people to an extra-ordinary situation, and one from which there is no apparent means of salvation, whatever salvation may mean.

However, in our present climate of US politicians like that arsehole Exon suppressing freedom of publication in a new media, and Australian laws providing criminal penalties for insulting minority groups, perhaps we are no different. The situation Wilson describes so well is merely a little more repressive, and a little better recognised by his townsfolk, than is the case in our so called "free" societies. As long as anyone anywhere can make any of us supress what we wish to say, then our society is not free.

Freedom includes putting up with mean spirited sons of bitches trying to convince us that some groups of people are inferior. It includes allowing people with strange sexual appetites talk about their preferences. It doesn't mean we have to listen. It doesn't mean we permit them to act upon their notion if that involves people who do not consent. However we shouldn't put up with any law that stops free speech or the distribution of opinions by individuals.

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Peter Edick makes excuses for not writing. "Part of it is just sloppy housekeeping, combined with a pathological aversion to writing longhand. When I'm reading Gegenschein there's no computer handy. And when I'm at a computer I can't find your fanzine."

Famous Australian author (well, I can't help it if you readers haven't caught up on the best Australian sf as yet) Leanne Frahm sends thanks for The Secret Guide to Computers, and really showed her appreciation by buying me a drink at Arcon. "It's making the whole computer business so much easier to understand. Of course, it's also destroying the mystique with which I used to regard people like you who build their own computers - now I see that a computer is simply a pile of spare parts anyone can put together (or is that needlessly and insultingly simplistic?) There's nothing magical about it after all."

Teddy Harvia says "I find cathartic writing very interesting, especially that of contrite souls, but it does have its critics, often those who refuse to admit that they themselves have ever done anything wrong in their lives. I stopped writing about Vietnam because of all the flak I was getting."

Irwin Hirsh mentions making donations to DUFF, FFANZ and GUFF, in exchange for fanzines. I still have some fanzines available, for donations to fannish causes such as Australia in 1999.

Linda Michaels says "Jean and I and others afflicted with the legume allergy curse are not allergic to M&Ms because they contain peanuts. Both plain and peanut M&Ms are mixed in the same machines. The products (and many other candies) are labelled in Canada with the disclaimer: `Warning - this product may have come in contact with peanuts'. Guess Mr Peanut is a tad promiscuous."

Bruce Pelz sends poctsarcds "Minicon 30. Expected attendance: 3500. A 16% increase from last year, predicting 7500+ by the year 2000. If this is the Twin Cities' idea of a Minicon, I would hate to go to anything they might call a Maxicon."

The fans that once through Tara's Rooms
For fun at Boskone sought
Prepare, alas, to face our Dooms:
By Sacks we now get caught.
(And while his victim squirms and fumes
Sacks yammers on at naught ...)

Bob and Margaret Riep send a piece of their Wedding Anniversary cake. Twenty years, still happy and strong.

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Gegenschein tends to ramble on about trips I've taken to science fiction conventions (where the attendees rarely actually talk about science fiction, so it helps if you already know the characters). It also mentions a bunch of science fiction books I've read or received for review of late (well, it is now very late). Finally, there are letters from various people, and these also may not relate to science fiction, nor conventions, nor even anything in previous issues. If you don't like this, don't download it. Gegenschein Home Page

A science fiction fanzine written and published by Eric Lindsay

Gegenschein is published when I have enough material and time (mostly time) to do an issue. This issue I've started doing the electronic version prior to the paper edition. The electronic version contains material that will not appear in the printed version. In particular, it rambles more, and contains lots more errors. Comments should be sent to:

Eric Lindsay

#0310-9968 ISSN

Copyright © 1996. All rights returned to the contributors upon publication.

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