Gegenschein 76 December 1996

Hail Thru the Roof

This issue was to be out in December. A freak, unseasonable hail storm broke all my skylights and did other damage at home on Wednesday 11 December, so I lost several days to cleaning up and chasing repairers and insurance companies. Due to a heavy party schedule during the lead up to Xmas, I didn't return home until the Friday, somewhat after midnight. Removing waterlogged rugs was not the most pleasant task at that time. I did unfortunately lose some fanzines to water damage. I just (Friday 20th) took delivery of replacement skylight tiles, and hope that the holes in the roof will finally be sealed with something better than plastic by Sunday 22nd.

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Perth SwanCon Trip Easter 1996


Wednesday 3rd April 1996

Having a 4:30 a.m. alarm isn't the greatest start to the day. Jean helpfully drove me to the airport for Qantas flight 405 to Melbourne at 6:30. Unfortunately I had to change in Melbourne for flight 495 to continue across the continent to Perth. Thanks to the time zones, I would arrive somewhat after breakfast time, all going well. Mind you, Qantas thoughtfully provided bacon, omelet and baked beans on the flight.

Melbourne airport was crowded, unlike the flight there. Not surprising, as I'd not been able to obtain a flight on a later time or day. I imagine the whole plane will be full. And so it was, except that the seat next to mine remained empty during much of the flight. Another breakfast, a different variety of egg dish, with hash browns. I ate it anyway. The flight was smooth, and I was able to sit comfortably typing these notes on my palmtop computer, insulated from cabin noise, listening to classic music from the plane system on my NoiseBuster headphones.

My concept of arriving just after breakfast was rudely shattered by the four hour flight from Melbourne to Perth. With a late take off, fairly lengthy wait for luggage, and a scenic but not very direct hotel bus, I didn't get to my room Miss Maud's and collapse until almost three my time, nearly one Perth time.

I went out to scout out some supplies, and made my usual Perth mistakes. Forgot to eat lunch, on the basis that I'd breakfasted twice. If you go one direction, you find vast numbers of stores, none of which have what you want. If you go the other direction, you find a nice little collection of essentials on the same block as the hotel. By the time I discovered this I was grumpy, tired and not at all happy.

A couple of stiff drinks and a half hour of rest restored my spirits (as it were), and I had a much more successful second wander about. I found the nearby snacks, and some cheap coke (the sort where the bubbles get up your nose, not the other sort). I found two different types of presents for Jean. If they survive the rigours of the journey home in my luggage, they will appear as Xmas or birthday presents over the next year. I found an expensive book on OS/2 Warp (I'm not sure whether that should be scored as positive or negative). And I found Supernova Books, and failed to resist the lure of another scifi book (to be fair, I did have it on my "wanted" list). I was pretty tired of walking by the time that was all complete.

Back at Miss Maud's, I was able to phone Gigi Boudville, who told me the convention hotel wouldn't allow the planned ice cream social to promote the Australia in 1999 Worldcon bid. Typical hotel behaviour, of course, and you never find out until alternate plans are too late. Gigi now planned a mass distribution of Easter Eggs instead. Luckily my flyers and other supplies will fit either plan.

I talked with Don Griffith, whose wife Ann recently had a child. Don assures me they will be at the con in any case. Dave Luckett resisted the lure of the Internet and the prospect of a Web Page, as a progressive sf author should. I have hopes of talking him around during the convention. He told me that the convention was not making any provision for child memberships, which given the ageing audience for written sf, is a distressing bit of news. Sally arranged to meet me for lunch the following day, so I'll ask if she can help with a web page for Dave.

After collapsing for a while I revived enough to seek an unsatisfactory salad sandwich, and so to bed, as Samuel Peyps put it.

I did watch an X Files episode on TV, and decided that it was still crap. In deference to various fans who believe I hate all visual media material, I hasten to add that I am certainly not saying that every X Files episode is crap ... only all the ones I have seen so far. Maybe you need to watch a lot of them?

Altronics and unpacking

Thursday 4th April 1996

Walked far away, to Altronics, in the hope of finding interesting electronics. I was disappointed. Located the various technical bookshops in town, and was tempted by them, but resisted. Back to the hotel after nearly a three hour walk. After a rest, I checked Kings, the convention hotel, and found a few people waiting to bring goods into the huckster's room. No sign of committee.

Finding Sally's work place was slightly complicated by failing to spot a major landmark, but street addresses still worked. The building seemed a maze, and we emerged from a totally different entrance to the one I'd found. Knowing locals helps get good cheap food, and we were able to catch up on fannish business while waiting for the food.

Back at Kings, Barb De La Hunty was unloading so I helped. A convention doesn't seem real to me until I have helped some huckster I know unload a car. I put out my Australia in 1999 flyers. Soon Neil Murray arrived, and we decided to seek the bar. After all, the fans should get there early. They hadn't. After a few cooling ales, we headed out, and came upon Perry Middlemiss heading for the bar, so we returned. Some time later we checked the entrance way, and found a large number of potential convention attendees were present. I put up a bunch of the laminated A3 size Australia in 1999 posters I'd produced. Luckily all my bid material did not rely upon hotels co-operating (of course, this is the result of long experience rather than any specific knowledge).

The opening ceremony was late. Tara Smith unilaterally opened the door to the ballroom, so people had a place to sit. Afterwards a bunch of us headed back to the bar, which was a good place for conversation.

Miss Maud and Convention

Friday 5th April 1996

Miss Maud's breakfast. Got up to six courses this time. This is unbelievable for a light eater like me.

We had a small Ain99 panel at 4, and got a number of pre-supporters and LACon memberships. Giving out Gigi's easter eggs probably helped keep the audience. It was a pity Gigi and Cheryl Morgan's ambitious plans for an ice cream social were wrecked on the shoals of a recalcitrant hotel, but perhaps enough people saw the posters and flyers I'd brought as a backup. The Perth fans have always been very supportive of the Worldcon bid.

Slow Glass owner Justin Ackroyd and company did the fan auction starting at 8:30 in the evening, and continued through midnight. Despite the undoubted entertainment value of people like Justin, I find most auctions overlong. This might be a reaction to organising the "behind the scenes" part of the first Aussiecon auction.

Book launch and masquerade

Saturday 6th April 1996

Valma Brown joined us at Miss Maud's for breakfast, and managed to walk out without paying. All of us were amused at her horrified reaction upon realising.

The book launch was a reasonable excuse for champagne (sorry, "sparkling white wine", the French insist we don't call it by one of their names.) I'd already bought the book (Simon Brown's Privateer) from Justin, so I was able to go straight to the autograph table. Had to provide a pen for the autographing, since Simon had not so been supplied - this amused me. It is wonderful that sufficient books are appearing in Australia that nearly all conventions now include a book launch.

The masquerade was far too noisy for an old phart like me, due to a DJ and some exceedingly large loudspeakers. I brought out my anti-noise headphones, and was therefore able to enter the room. The masquerade enforced a costume or mask for entry, and included a cash bar. Apart from the noise, I thought that it worked better than a straight "sit down and watch" masquerade. I would hope that some sort of large scale social mingling event can be arranged at Aussiecon Three, although I must admit that the style of rooms seem to push the masquerade itself towards the "sit down and watch" event. Lots of people tried the sound absorbing headphones. Hey, if you have gadgets, flaunt them, or what is a science fiction future for?

Up late talking with Ian Nichols, who keeps saying he wants to do programming for Ain99. He would be perfect, and it would be perfect, he assures me. Several people seem of the same opinion; only the names and the jobs changed.

Tess Williams wanted to know about women gohs at Ain99. This is a considerable problem. Now that Worldcons are increasingly expected to honour people with several decades of contributions to the field, many splendid women writers would be excluded from consideration.

For example, Ursula leGuin, GoH at Aussiecon in 1975, had her first novel published in 1966, and her first genre story in Fantastic in 1962. Under the current expected "25 year rule", she would have been excluded from consideration. Obviously her four Nebula and five Hugo awards show her importance to the field. In particular, her concluding novel in the Hainish sequence, The Dispossessed, An Ambiguous Utopia, appeared the year before Aussiecon, and won both the Hugo and Nebula. In short, she was an inspired choice. One argument for the "25 year rule" is that, as authors age, we may not have the opportunity to honour some of them, unless we take some steps to take age into account. There were a lot fewer women SF writers (and probably readers) 30 years ago, so this leads to unequal representation on guest lists now, relative to the number of women authors (and readers) now active.

I certainly can't see any general solution to this dilemma. One thing that might help would be to have (yet another) fan fund, designed to bring out an author to help run a writer's workshop. Just as fan fund winners are considered guests of a Worldcon, so too would the recipient of such a fund. The Tucker Bag brought Bob Tucker out for Aussiecon, for example.

Tess mentioned later that she and several other women writers were to attend Wiscon. Jean came back with very enthusiastic reports of this long standing and well organised feminist sf oriented convention. The organising of the Wiscon pocket program is the finest such item I have seen (so I got all the details from the people who designed it). Anyone with interests in the area of feminist sf should check Wiscon.

Business Meeting

Sunday 7th April 1996

I staggered out to Miss Maud's for breakfast at eight, and was soon joined by Justin Ackroyd. Having filled a small table, we were then joined by Perry Middlemiss. A little later Robin Johnson and Mark Bivins came along. I think I managed to return to the greasy egg and bacon three times. Cholesterol city.

The business meeting voted 8 to 6 to make Basicon in Melbourne the 1997 Australian National Science Fiction Literary convention (it was already the media convention). The opposition was Thylacon in Hobart. Much was made of changing the constitution to rejoin the two sets of awards. Such drama; such high interest. It seemed almost a pity not to be able to include a bid from Seattle! It would have been just like old times. Eight votes! I've packed votes much larger that that!

In the hucksters room I bought a copy of the first two The Prisoner shows on video, but am told the rest never appeared on video. Vast numbers of bad videos abounded, but good ones seem scarce. I'd love a copy of Forbidden Planet, or The Shape of Things to Come, or even Destination Moon (well, ok, I may be overstating things to consider the last of those "good", but it does have historical interest). After spending too much money, I collapsed back at the room, reading about Warp and eating bad things.

I'm not familiar with the work of Neil Gaimen, but he gave a very funny GoH speech, and also a most effective reading from his latest work.

The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth, a debate that finally turned upon whether the geeks would inherit, or merely take. You had to be there.

I thought Swancon worked well, as a con. However it did seem to me that the committee were often overworked, and often had insufficient volunteers to help. Maybe the fannish culture is changing, or maybe it was always like that.

I'd have liked more Ain99 publicity at the convention, and the failure to have an ice cream social was disappointing (also, I think that fans would have enjoyed it). However since I never expected to win on Australian votes, I didn't see it worth putting every possible effort into Australian publicity (especially when someone else had already volunteered to do that publicity). The voting figures for Aussiecon Three (fewer than 70 Australian votes, about 900 US votes) show that was the correct decision. It is a real pity that non-voters in Australia now have to pay high membership fees if they want to attend. However we did try to warn people that might happen, even before we exactly knew the likely site costs.

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New Books

Ill Wind by Kevin J Anderson and Doug Beason

Tor, May 1996, 563pp, US$6.99

Environmental disaster dystopia revisited. A supertanker releasing its oil in San Francisco Bay prompts a multinational oil company to attempt to deal with it, unwisely releasing an untested designer microbe that eats oil.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be propagated by air also, and eats oil everywhere. Does this remind any Australians of a recent test of a a rabbit killer?

It also eats synthetic fabrics, plastics and much else. Reminds me somewhat of Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, however this one has perhaps a larger cast of characters and is more set up as a film treatment.

Good treatment of the complexity and inter-relatedness of technological civilisation (although E M Forster's sole SF story, the memorable The Machine Stops (1909) covered the essentials first in that attack on Wells' A Modern Utopia).

Kaleidoscope Century by John Barnes

Millenium Phoenix, 1996, 252pp, E5.99

A conspiracy is plotting the death of Joshua Ali Quare. He awakens on Mars in 2109, in a youthful body, with few memories except of a childhood that makes him 140 years old. He has computer records of the turbulent 21st Century, and the part he has played in shaping it.

The collapse of the nation state, mutant AIDs, war, always war, machine intelligence. The hypertext records partly explain the virus provided by a secret group, a virus that robs him of memory every fifteen years, but leaves his body ten years younger.

This was a fine fast paced look at a dark view of the coming century. Good adventure story as well.

The Time Ships, by Stephen Baxter

Voyager, 1995, 629pp, P4.99 A$12.95

Authorised by the estate of H G Wells, this sequel and tribute on the hundredth anniversary of The Time Machine follows the continued adventures of the Time Traveller. Setting out a second time to rescue the Eloi Weena from the brutish Morlocks, he finds himself in a different future.

A more highly evolved Morlock is encountered, together with tributes to other novels by Wells. However there are an infinity of possible futures, and an infinity of pasts. Or will time itself end? And what might some strange race do to change even that event.

A wonderful long and absorbing read, very much along the lines of the original, but with new wonders.

Sailing Bright Eternity by Gregory Benford

Bantam, October 1996, 445pp, US$5.99

Sixth and final of the Galactic Center novels. A combination of the junk sequences of the genetic structure of three generations of Bishops carry embedded an ancient weapon. Emplanted in the mechs billions of years before, when they were first devised, the trigger to the weapon has been passed through unknowing generations of many species.

The Mantis, artistic collector of Bishops over generations, seeks the secret of the weapon. Yet the weapon kills mechs by invoking pleasure, an unknown item to mech brains. Could the Mantis resist sampling this final experience?

The novel is set in the strange byways of the esty, the compressed space-time hideaway near the galactic center. However why is Nigel Walmsley still there, still alive, and is he agent of the Highers?

A splendid conclusion to the sequence of novels. But just how do you show events beyond our understanding?

Terry Pratchett's Mort, the Play by Stephen Briggs

Corgi, August 1996, 168pp, A$11.95

Terry Pratchett writes some funny dialog, and a lot is still included in this two hour play. There are some helpful hints for amateur production, and a prop list. I'm not certain how many people would buy a play, but I'd certainly encourage some fan group to try to stage this one at a convention.

Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters, the Play by Stephen Briggs

Corgi, August 1996, 168pp, A$11.95

Like Mort the Play, includes much of Terry Pratchett's dialog, and is suited to a two hour production. Macbeth (on which the original is based) is too black. This is a lot more fun.

Privateer by Simon Brown

Harper Collins, 1996, 294pp, A$12.95

Space piracy, with privateers like Captain Aruzel Kidron and his ship Magpie raiding the alien Calethar, somewhat in advance of an actual war. A rousing space adventure, reminding me somewhat of English privateers and sailing ships and the not yet declared war with Spain like in the old Classics Illustrated Westward Ho. I intend this as praise.

I think this is the first novel by this Australian author. It has some great alien characters, however it does not really seem to show some of the qualities seen in his short stories. I found myself wondering whether it was an earlier novel, now sold, or written to order in some haste. It is done by an obviously competent author, and I enjoyed it, but I believe we will see even better stories in the future.

Great space combat cover by Greg Bridges, in a detailed and busy Chris Foss style. I hope they use his covers again. (Nitpick - with a sunlit planet below, the highly visible stars of the painting would be washed out - I found lack of visible stars one of the great disappointments of the space program.)

Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold>

Baen, October 1996, 302pp, US$5.99

The 22 year old Miles Vorkosigan and cousin Ivan are on Cetaganda showing the diplomatic flag (and learning diplomatic polish), however nothing is ever simple for Miles. The Cetaganda empress dies (of natural causes), her attendant dies (of un-natural causes), and Miles turns detective. Of course, this is after the attack in their diplomatic quarters, the lost relic, falling in love with the unattainably beautiful haut-woman ...

The Bujold books are really only marginally science fiction, as the characters could exist in any area with a range of widely different cultures. However, they have a lot to say about facing adversity, and the characters are well done and develop from story to story. I enjoy them a lot. Awards indicate so do lots of other fans.

The Triad Worlds by F M Busby

AvoNova, June 1996, 374pp, US$5.99

Two ships approach an alien world. A world shattered by conflict with its own nearby lunar colony, and by plague that may have been the final weapon of that war. One ship, slowing down from lightspeed, is an Earth slow freighter, carrying on board a matter transmitter. As in the previous Arrow From Earth, anything can be transmitted via a matter transmitter, including crews. The trip is instantaneous ... but two years always passes in the outside universe.

Captain Sam Gowdy of the Roamer must stop an alien war, uncover and defeat a human criminal intent on taking over the matter transmitter and the new solar system, and stop a mutiny lead by his lover. Well, you can't say the author doesn't like complicating up a plot.

Strange Attractors by Jeffrey A Carver

Tor, April 1996, 338pp, US$5.99

Second in The Chaos Chronicles series, a SF version of the overlong fantasy quest style of novel. John Bandicott awakes in a gigantic Shipworld containing numerous alien biospheres. With two new alien friends, he and they are manipulated into touring various areas, defending the Shipworld against an entity that is disrupting the entire structure.

Bandicott still contains the symbiotic life form that set him on this strange life. It `died' saving Earth, but now fragments of its memories and personality are returning. This was entertaining high tech adventure, but I'm not convinced it is going anywhere. I'll probably try the third volume, on the basis of past writing.

The Memory Cathedral by Jack Dann

Bantam, December 1995, 486pp, US$22.95

Subtitled "A Secret History of Leonardo da Vinci" this fine entertaining historical novel throws us into Leonardo's life and loves and speculations. When his personality is fully explored, an alternate history scenario unfolds. What if Leonardo's weapons of war were actually to be created and used in anger, in the Middle East. Dann imagines Leonardo travelling, during a few missing years from our knowledge of his life, and having just such events on his conscience.

While not really science fiction, this is a fine thoughtful novel, about a different time, and a different sort of life. Many SF fans would enjoy it. I thought the atmospherics of the first half the best part of it, while the battle tactics near the end seemed overlong and boring (but I don't like military sf either). It included more coincidences than a Star Wars movie.

The Magnificent Wilf by Gordon R Dickson

Baen, 1995, 292pp, US$21 HC

Amusing lightweight tale of underdog humans taking on galactic diplomats and winning fame and fortune, despite adversity. Reads like something Campbell might have commissioned. Denny Lien sent it direct, nicely inscribed to me by Gordy, so there is absolutely no way I could have read it previously. However all through reading it I keep feeling I had somehow read it before - I wish I could figure out why.

Hackers by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

Ace, October 1996, 239pp, US$5.50

Excellent collection of classic stories on the idea of hackers. As you would expect, some are about computer crackers, rather than the more honourable original meaning of hackers. Some rightly extend to biological systems. Authors include William Gibson, Tom Maddox, Greg Egan, Pat Cadigan, Robert Silverberg, Alexander Jablokov, Bruce Sterling, Greg Bear, Paul J McAuley, Neal Stephenson. It is good to have such a collection on hand.

Enchanter by Sara Douglass

Harper Collins, February 1996, 706pp, A$13.95

Volume Two of The Axis Trilogy. Lengthy fantasy by Australian author with all of the traditional elements, and some horrifying scenes.

Distress by Greg Egan

Millennium London, 1995, 342pp, TPB A$19.95

The viewpoint character is an investigative journalist in a nanotech future. Opening with a powerful scene of (temporarily) reviving a dead body, the journalist fails to accept what appears to be an important possible contract, in favour of covering a scientific conference on an embargoed artificial island created by anarchists. A theory of everything may mean that the first person to hold all the concepts together in their head also becomes the person who created the Universe. And some groups are about to make sure that never happens.

A roller coaster ride of intrigue and philosophical speculation. If only all science fiction were this imaginative and this powerful. It is this sort of story that makes sf worth more than just a piece of escapist entertainment competing only for your beer money,

Camelot 30K by Robert L Forward

Tor, August 1996, 308pp, US$5.99

Out in the Kuiper Belt, at a cool 30K, an alien civilisation is found. Multiple independent cities, rather medieval. Riding a cable catapult capsule from Earth, four scientists land a cramped vessel to study this strange new civilisation.

As is often the case with Forward, his alien characters are more interesting than the humans. Just when you have them pegged as transplanted middle ages, something weird turns up. The technology of the conclusion is really strange, even for something Forward would propose.

I didn't think this was up to his best, but I'll take hard SF when I can get it.

Design for Great-Day by Alan Dean Foster and Eric Frank Russell

Tor, 1996, 255pp, US$5.99

A strange one. Eric Frank Russell wrote a bunch of stories like Wasp, in which a smart human defeats a large number of very dumb aliens. I always assumed they were written to fit into the buying patterns of John Campbell's Analog. Russell's stories had the great merit of usually being funny. A sort of cocktail party conversation in which the hero always gets all the best lines.

Foster has reproduced this well, at novel length. I think it a mite overlong, but it is well done, if you like smartass monologues.

Requiem Of Stars by Tracy Hickman

Bantam Spectra, June 1996, 376pp, US$5.99 A$12.95

Avast there, me swabs, here there be space opera. Well, make that sea shanties, and sailing ships, and Sargassos of Space, and hand cannons, and ship rigging. No, make that fantasy.

1968 by Joe Haldeman

Morrow, 1995, 338pp

The year 1968, seen through the eyes of Spider and Beverly. He enjoyed science fiction, but didn't enjoy being drafted and sent to Vietnam. She did volunteer work for radical political causes, and someone replaced Spider in her affections, but she didn't want to tell him. If you were alive in 1968, you might want to see how much resonance this all too realistic novel provides. Like Joe Haldeman's first book, War Year, it arises from his year (1968) in Vietnam. Maybe it also lays to rest some ghosts from that time.

Somebody's Watching by Anne Hilton-Bruce

Pan Macmillan, 1996, 418pp, A$12.95

"Obsession, deceit and dangerous love" according to the blurb on this Australian authors' second novel. Starts with finding a body near a country town. Very descriptive and atmospheric start. Not science fiction.

The Price of Wisdom by Shannah Jay

Pan Macmillan, August 1996, 539pp, A$14.95

Fourth and final volume in The Chronicles of Tenebrak by this Australian author. In previous volumes we have had an interfering xeno anthropologist, a stagnant 20,000 year old sisterhood, a lengthy quest, an evil sorcerous discord spreading war through the land. All the elements of fantasy are here. Fine if you like more of the same, and someone must be buying them.

The Site by J Radford Keir

Pan Macmillan, 1996, 423pp, A$12.95

Ancient haunted site, where a girl was murdered, unearthed by a new prison to be built. New Australian author. Horror, not science fiction.

Chronomaster by Jane Lindskold

Prima (Macmillan), November 1996, 348pp, US$5.99 A$11.95

A novel based on a graphics adventure game, for whom the author and Roger Zelazny were writers. Maybe it loses a lot in translation, but this collection of artificially related stories were pretty pedestrian. Maybe you need to play the game instead?

The Wizard and Me by Dave Luckett

Omnibooks Shorts, 1996, 64pp

It is a tough life at the bottom when you can't buy your way into a better education and a better future at the top. Eddie is a tough kid, coping pretty well with his life in a crowded future cave of steel. Until the wizard dropped in.

A gentle and pleasant story, despite the tough neighbourhood and the adventures and difficulties. It seemed to me well suited to the intended children audience, being both a good read, and inspirational.

Freedom's Landing by Anne McCaffrey

Corgi (Transworld), August 1996, 384pp, A$12.95

As usual, a well written, relatively slow paced adventure with a female protagonist in what is the first in a series. Bunches of humans and others are dumped on a planet by invaders, to survive if they can. However the planet is obviously a food world for another unknown but distant empire. Lots of boy scout handbook survival stuff (all too easy in execution), various romantic scenes.

Red Star Rising by Anne McCaffrey

Bantam (Transworld), October 1996, 335pp, A$29.95

Two hundred or so years after the landing on Pern, the dragons are established, as are the Weyrs. However the old Earth technology is failing, and a Lord Holder does not believe Thread will fall again. Tells some of the transition to the world of Pern beloved by so many readers of the earliest Pern novels. Teaching in transition, the struggles of an artist, the struggle against a greedy and unscrupulous Lord Holder, trying to find ways to ensure the inhabitants of Pern keep watching the skies. Seems to me to be written with as much style and skill as any of the earliest Pern novels. Pern enthusiasts should enjoy this novel.

Virtual Zen by Ray Nelson

AvoNova, August 1996, 220pp, US$5.50

Pacifica values past traditions. After his superstar father suicides, John Henry escapes his home, and makes a meagre living playing a toy flute in the marketplace. However his talent brings him better conditions, and entrepreneurs all too ready to exploit his talent. Set in a strange '60's feeling future, this is a collision between talent and exploitation. Strange and different.

Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday, July 1996, 206pp, A$19.95 HC

It is 1941, and daffy Mrs Tachyon is dragging her shopping trolley full of black plastic bags over the debris from an unexploded bomb. It is the present, and Johnny Maxwell and his young friends find the familiar Mrs Tachyon, but this time she is semi-conscious in an alley, so they help her.

Of course, when you help someone, you end up with responsibilities. Something like winning the lottery, except that somehow you lose. Also, why is the richest man in the world heading for his hamburger bar in Johnny's town?

A great children's story, with many a twist in time.

A Dog Called Demolition, by Robert Rankin

Doubleday (Transworld), July 1996, 251pp, A$29.95

The Garden of Unearthly Delight, by Robert Rankin

Corgi (Transworld), July 1996, 318pp, A$12.95

Surreal and to my mind apparently pointless meandering, dropping trivial mentions of pop culture heros of the past few decades. I believe it is intended to be funny. I could easily live without ever seeing anything ever written by this author.

The Ganymede Club by Charles Sheffield

Tor, October 1996, 342pp, US$6.99

Set before Cold As Ice, children Spook and Lola are put on one of the last spacecraft to escape Earth, just before the Great War. Some years later, established as a therapist on Ganymede, Lola finds a patient who "remembers" things he could not possibly remember, including his death. The young Spook enlists the aid of his games opponent, the almost equally young Rustum Battachariya, in solving the mystery. They do not expect to become involved in an almost alien threat that puts all of them at risk.

Excellent hard science fiction, with a good nod at a teenage audience, and strong colourful characters. Not as strong as Cold As Ice, but Sheffield rarely disappoints.

Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling

Bantam, January 1996, 310pp, US$5.99

A spoilt young man, killing himself with drugs, grows to accept some responsibility for his life. The background is a mid 21st Century US, parts now Tornado Alley and almost abandoned after drastic climatic changes. The hackers from Storm Troupe are obsessed with tracking and measuring a possible super tornado, a self sustaining storm that could keep going for an indefinite time. Driven by a charismatic mathematical genius, they use military surplus vehicles and equipment in their dangerous quest.

A fine future novel, both of gadgets and of people.

Heirs of Empire by David Weber

Baen, March 1996, 533pp, US$5.99

No one knows what happened to the Emperor's children, only that their starship had disappeared. Colin the First has a few problems of his own, like a traitor attempting to blow his planet apart.

The children escape their starship moments before it is destroyed, and find the only nearby world regressed to a medieval technology. However something is still keeping part of the Fourth Empire defences active. They can only hope to sneak in, take over the defences, and make a communication system to call home.

However when they land, the church declare them demons, and rouse the armies of half a world against children. The church is in deep trouble with that move.

Good fast paced military space opera, no other redeeming features.

Metal Fatigue by Sean Williams

Harper Collins, 1996, 458pp, A$12.95

Listed as a science fiction thriller, this is aimed rather nicely at the US market. It is set in the city of Kennedy, which walled itself off from the rest of the USA after a nuclear war forty years ago. Despite some decline, the city attempts to keep functioning as a modern technology, despite shortages and maintenance failures.

Investigator Phil Roads attempts to find a political assassin, and who is stealing data, against a deadline set by the approach of the Reunited States, taking over the old scattered city states.

Nice dark thriller, with plenty of tech trappings. Jonathan Straham called it "future-noir", and that is a great description.

Rock of Ages by Walter Jon Williams

Tor, September 1996, 287pp, US$5.99

Third of the novels of the adventures of Drake Maijstral, the highest ranked Permitted Burglar. All Drake wants is a pleasant holiday on Earth, admiring artwork (rather than stealing them). However someone is planting stolen artwork in his room, the police want him, the media want him, various deadly serious people want him to fight a duel, and various delightful women want to marry him. Furthermore, his dead father is senile, and someone has stolen the cryocrypt containing the corpsicle. I'm not sure about the Elvis impersonators.

Broad fast paced and witty comedy, at times almost descending to farce. I enjoyed it.

Bellwether by Connie Willis

Bantam, April 1996, 247pp, US$11.95 TPB

A wonderful funny book of chaotic (in every sense) incidents as researchers try to avoid the latest idiotic management fad, study the reason for fads (if you can predict them, you can make money from them) in human populations, get their research funding applications placed in time (despite the assistant from Hell) and survive corporate attempts at increasing esprit d'corp that involve every longer requisitions for paper clips. Anyone who has worked for a large organisation with a research department will be rolling in the aisles while reading this (or maybe crying). Highly recommended. Connie Willis is a Hugo and Nebula award winner.

Babylon 5 - Book 4 Clark's Law by Jim Mortimore

Dell (Transworld), August 1996, 270pp, US$5.50 A$9.95

More background of nasty politics on Earth, and cynical manipulation of the characters on Babylon 5. Sheridan has to execute an alien refugee who no longer has any knowledge of the crime for which they are being judged. Dr Franklin is horrified by the prospect of murdering an innocent alien for political reasons. This book was much better than the earlier three, but is still very lightweight SF.

Star Wars

The Laser Books of the '90's. It appears that the Lucas organisation have contracted with Bantam Spectra to have established SF authors produce these books. Being by established authors, they all easily meet reasonable standards of readability. I am also sure that they pay the authors a lot better than the average SF novel. After all, even in the preliminaries of the publicity buildup to new Star Wars films, the audience is larger.

Star Wars - Tales From Jabba's Palace, edited by Kevin J Anderson

Bantam (Transworld), January 1996, 427pp, US$5.99 A$10.95

Nineteen stories based on different participants views of the events surrounding the conflict between Jabba and Luke on Tatooine regarding the freeing of the frozen body of Han Solo. The participants are all minor characters from the original films. A dancer, Jabba's chef, the Rancor keeper (A Boy and his Monster), a member of the band, the bounty hunter Boba Fett, Mara Jade, and so on.

Some show considerable imagination, and a fine sense of the dramatic. Some are humourous, and alas, after reading so many views of the same events, some are merely tedious. I'd advise spacing out the reading, perhaps by regarding this as the sort of book to keep by the loo. This is not intended as a comment on the quality - I thought the book was a good idea. Within the time spanned by the Star Wars films, minor characters are more likely to suffer real events, real triumphs and real dangers than are the main characters, all of whom must be intact at the end of a book.

The authors include Barbara Hambley, Esther Friesner, Timothy Zahn, and George Alec Effinger.

Star Wars - Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry

Bantam (Transworld), May 1996, 340pp, US$22.95 A$29.95

Set in the period between the capture of Han Solo and his rescue from Jabba, this novel concentrates on the conflict for Emperor Palpatine's favour between Darth Vader and the reptilian Prince Xizor.

Xizor is a cunning, diabolical, criminal genius, lord of the galaxy wide Black Sun organisation (hmm, didn't we see this in Doc Smith back in the '30's?) One of his plots, to find and kill Luke, one of his tools, to trap Leia, who is seeking to intercept Boba Fett and rescue Han before Jabba obtains him.

Some nice battles, with Wedge Antiles and Rogue Squadron taking part, plus most of the other characters from the films turning up in support.

Star Wars - X-Wing Rogue Squadron by Michael A Stackpole

Bantam (Transworld), Feb 1996, 388pp, US$5.99 A$10.95

Introduce a bunch of hot pilots, re-establish Wedge Antiles' Rogue Squadron, run through training, follow it through its first few missions, set up an implacable Empire enemy, and then do a whole heap of sequels, and by the Force how the money rolls in.

One wonders just why so many of these missions involve flying through narrow canyons, just like the ones on the Death Star. Maybe the author writes video games ... he does? What a surprise.

Have you ever noticed that dogfights in space take place exclusively at (slow) aircraft speeds, with lasers at half a kilometer? This idiocy continues throughout this book, as do many other pieces of fantasy physics. We have fighters that can travel across substantial pieces of a solar system, yet don't have an airlock, and with cockpits so small that pilots typically don't wear pressure suits. The fighters also don't have food or toilet facilities, so the implied flight time is at most days. Indeed, one incident involved a pilot running out of air within three days. So we can easily see they have enormous delta vee capability. But not sufficient fuel for a long dogfight at low speed. Like all Hollywood film people, some of these authors need to take a physics course.

Star Wars - X-Wing Wedge's Gamble by Michael A Stackpole

Bantam (Transworld), August 1996, 357pp, US$5.99 A$10.95

More action packed ground combat and less silly space fight scenes this time. This one is the story of how Rogue Squadron lead the attack on Coruscant, the Imperial Center. Full of deceit and betrayal, and far more coincidence than is reasonable. Reads a bit better than the first in the series.

Star Wars - The Crystal Star, by Vonda N McIntyre

Bantam (Transworld), Dec 1995, 413pp, US$5.99 A$10.95

Leia's children have been kidnapped on a planet in which political kidnapping of royal children is almost an expected tactic. Unfortunately, the kidnapping is yet another plot by yet another remnant of empire. Meanwhile Luke and Han are on holidays and out of touch with Leia. Much of the story reads from the viewpoint of the children, and the entire novel feels like a children's story. Given the level at which the Star Wars films are pitched this is not unreasonable, however as a result it does not fit as well with others in the series.

Star Wars - Before the Storm, by Michael P Kube-McDowell

Bantam (Transworld), April 1996, 309pp, US$5.99 A$10.95

Book 1 of The Black Fleet Crisis. With peace established, Leia is continuing diplomatic efforts to encourage more planets to join the New Republic. One nearby star group is stalling, behind all the diplomatic niceties. Meanwhile, an obscure intelligence analyst working on new data from the Empire's past discovers an alarming number of capital ships unaccounted for. Luke is in seclusion, attempting to learn how a Jedi can keep the passion needed to be a warrior, while still exploring the Force. A visitor to his hidden retreat offers the hope of learning about his mother. Nicely set up for the following novels.

Star Wars - Shield of Lies, by Michael P Kube-McDowell

Bantam (Transworld), November 1996, 340pp, A$10.95

Book 2 of The Black Fleet Crisis. Leia now sees evidence of the fierceness and brutality of Yevetha, however deploying a fleet against their captive planets proves ineffective. Lando, the cyborg Lobot and R2D2 and C3P0 enter the elusive crewless alien spaceship, only to have it escape the capture ships taking them with it. With air and power running short, they try to solve the mystery of its controls. Luke finds an alternative to the Force, while attempting to find the nature of his mothers' people. Han takes a spy ship into Yevetha territory, unaware of betrayal in the New Republic senate.

I don't know how Michael is going to tie all this together in the next book, given the restrictions set by the Lucas organisation, but you can't complain about a lack of plot elements.

Top of Page


John Tipper

PO Box 487, Strathfield NSW 2135
17th April 1996

What I find amusing in these two issues is ... your statement in #73 re: R C Wilson's book Mysterium.

"Freedom includes putting up with mean spirited sons of bitches trying to convince us that some groups of people are inferior ..."

then in #74 re: the 99 bid, putting down all groups of fans who don't fit your own parameters of what defines the Science Fiction Fan.

Does this mean you regard yourself as a mean spirited SOB, perhaps?

I wouldn't have a clue why Boskone is so called; likewise, Arisia. I don't know anyone who does, so i guess, by your definition, I've never met a genuine Science Fiction Fan. Anything else i could write on this subject would obviously be a waste of time and a repetition of remarks published elsewhere. At least you've convinced me that to support 99 would be to support a group of mean spirited SOBs.

Suggest you remove me from your mailing list and send it to one of those SOBs. A pity, as I really enjoy your zine.

{{ What I apparently failed to convey is that Worldcon is a multi theme convention, however relatively few of those themes make up an entire program stream by itself. If you only have an interest in a single specialised area, a specialised convention might be more to your liking. This applies regardless of whether your interest is Dr Who, or fanzines, or pulps (all examples I mentioned). However, traditionally Worldcon has paid much more attention to literary SF than anything else. This tradition will doubtless continue at Aussiecon Three. Therefore, a fan primarily interested in written science fiction only is more likely to find something to do throughout the entire convention.

{{ The primary reason for this emphasis is that traditionally, many SF authors, editors and publishers attend Worldcon. Therefore, they are the people we have available for our panels, and panels relating to their interests are what we can present. Current Australian Customs rules make life easier for overseas book dealers, and much harder for several other types of dealer, so I expect more book dealers and fewer other dealers. All our guests are heavily involved on the literary side of science fiction, and for the writers, hard science fiction at that. We have good reason to anticipate several other writers of similar material and similar strength also attending.

{{ There will be other areas in which we have a lot of strength. Most of the Board are involved with publishing fanzines, and a majority are involved with the Fanhistorica mailing list. Guest Bruce Gillespie is being honoured for his fanzine work, however our other two guests both often appear in fanzines. So I anticipate and hope we will have a relatively strong roll up of fanzine fans, and thus a strong program for such fans, but even in a strong area like that I wouldn't expect someone who only does fanzines to find enough material to attend "only" fanzine items.

{{ A more typical program strand, in terms of time and resources, would be filksinging. Songs relating to F&SF, songs used in SF, and maybe just songs. The filkers need a room from about 9 p.m. until dawn, far enough away from sleeping rooms to avoid noise complaints. Probably a few panel items also. However, there isn't likely to be enough material to suit someone whose only interest is filk. I've got a bunch of material about it on our web site. I've been chasing permissions to produce a filk song manual. But I don't expect to get enough time to attend the filk singing, so if there weren't someone taking over, then there would be few arrangements made for filking.

{{ This is precisely what applies to every other area. The convention is run entirely by unpaid volunteers. We will be covering our interests first, and only including other material if we have lots of time (unlikely). If people volunteer and help, there is much more chance of their own interests being included, especially if the incremental costs are minimal. Organising a panel about an item doesn't cost us much. Hiring extra rooms, or union technical staff, does.

{{ E E "Doc" Smith made his name as the "Father of Space Opera", starting in 1928 with the Skylark stories. His Lensman series - the History of Civilisation - pits the Arisians against the evil extra-universal Eddorians. Working on a galactic scale, across millions of years, through layer after layer of intermediary, the Arisians secretly encourage the emergence of psionic powers in several races, so as to create the Galactic Patrol, and the Lensmen. These Lensmen take on the evil power of Boskone, the intermediatory of the Eddorians, generation after generation. I believe you can trace a direct line of influence from Smith's stories, through Forbidden Planet to Star Trek, and more directly to Star Wars. I really think that anyone interested in media SF would find the path from space opera to our present TV shows and films very direct. EL}}

Teddy Harvia

701 Regency Drive Hurst TX 76054-2907 USA
6th June 1996

Instead of offering to hold Dick Smith's coat, you should have been reaching for your camera. Dick punching out a mundane would have made a great action shot in your photo spread.

I think many of the problems fans have with hotels can be traced back to the poverty induced scarcity of tips. When my disposable income increased, I was amazed at the friendliness and tolerance a few bucks in the right hands could buy.

Jean must have made a splash at Wiscon. Both Jeanne Mealy and Buck Coulson mentioned her specifically in correspondence. Reading your fast paced trip report wore me out.

{{ I had a lot of success with Medventions by tossing a little money at hotel problems. My (unofficial) spreadsheet for Aussiecon Three includes a largish item currently labelled "bribes", which I'm pretty sure our treasurer hasn't approved. I'll rename it to the same as the equivalent item on the LACon III spreadsheet, so as to be slightly less controversial. However, whether considered as gratuities or tips or whatever, such an item will be an essential part of hotel liaison. Australians, including me, have a lot of problems with the concept of tipping, as the custom is not widespread here, despite the efforts of certain snotty restaurants. EL}}

Lyn McConchie

Farside Farm, R.D. Norsewood New Zealand. Ph. (NZ) 06 3740 711.
24th May 1996.

Thanks for the Gegs. As Jean may have mentioned I am in the middle of one of those machine/owner/manufacturer sagas. Back in October of 1994 I purchased a WP145ODS Brother. It broke down just before last Christmas, the problem turning out to be a blown board due to power fluctuation accumulations. $65 to fix and I was quite happy about that. But then major breakdown in Early March. It was sent down to the Wellington shop to be fixed and the trouble started. They claimed it was major trouble and would cost around half the new cost of the machine to repair. No mention of WHAT the problem was but at that cost the shop here said it must come under the two year guarantee.

They insisted the manufacturer fix the trouble free and this went back and forth for two months while I was WPless. Finally the Brother people agreed to fix it free (or so I gather) and the shop THEN went to bat for me insisting that since Brother were now saying the machine couldn't be fixed for at least another month (part to come from overseas) Brother must provide me with a loan machine to continue my writing. This they have - very reluctantly - done along with a page of orders and instructions about it. By this time (2 1/2 months) I had so much I needed to print out stacked up waiting that I now feel like some kind of mad synthesizer player. I have the WP printing like crazy all morning, and beside it on a small extra table my old electric typewriter on which I type letters pausing every three minutes to change printer pages in the WP.

The electric typer has a problem too which I've never succeeded in fixing permanently. It has spells of taking the heads of lettering for days then righting itself for no apparent reason. Any comment on the above trouble would be appreciated as from one who knows to one who knows to one who is a technoilliterate.

{{If your letter was done on the electric typewriter, it appears that the ribbon is riding too low. I can see an impression on the paper where the character has struck, but no ribbon was in the way. Does the manual suggest an adjustment to ribbon or type position is possible? EL}}

Paul Skelton

25 Bowland Close, Offerton, Stockport, Cheshire, SK2 5NW England
18th. May 1996

I am of course insanely jealous of the fact that you could make two trips to the USA in 1994, particularly as I remember reading in an earlier issue of Gegenschein (earlier than numbers 73/74 which arrived today) how you did a sort of general breakdown of the costs/budgeting for such visits. I recall thinking as I read that "Shit a Brick! If our US visits were as expensive we'd never be able to go." Unlike you though we freeload shamelessly with friends and fannish acquaintances (I think on our first US visit we actually paid for one night in a hotel over the entire six week holiday) and assuage any potential guilt by being ready and willing to return any and all such guestings ... and of course we actually `returned' many in advance of our visit, and would have done more were it not for the fact that relatively few fans see Stockport as any sort of `Mecca'.

My jealousy is of course exacerbated by the fact that this was supposed to be the Year of our triennial US/Canada jaunt, but our daughter Bethany's wedding (three weeks in the past as I type) wrote a resounding financial `finis' to that particular schema. Fortunately by way of compensation Mike Glicksohn and Susan Manchester will be visiting with us for a week early in July, so we won't miss quite all the friends with whom we would otherwise have touched base.

Alyson Abramowitz too wrote that she was likely to be over here again in the not-too-distant future, but others you mentioned will be sadly missed, particularly those in the Midwest (and I was particularly saddened to read that Bill Bowers' health is no better, and may even have deteriorated since our 1993 visit. There ought to be a rule that only good things can happen to nice people. Sadly, even if there were I'm sure Bill would somehow manage to be exempted from it on some Cosmic technicality).

I can only echo your remarks about `good US ribs' being a real favourite (particularly Rib King in Cinsy). I consider the lack of same to be one of the major disadvantages to not living in the US. I don't know if there's more than one Ruby Tuesday's in Cincinnati, but presume if you went there with Bill Bowers, Dave Locke and Roger Sims it was probably the one at the mall of which we too have fond memories (despite the fact that Cas came down with serious lurgi the day after she actually ate anything there (on previous visits she'd simply abandoned us to it's tender mercies and strolled off to exercise her credit card - see us shot at the bar there on page 62 of AW volume 2).

Surely that's one of the great delights of fandom, this sharing of Cinsy USA memories between people from NSW Australia, and Cheshire England - and it could have so easily been Chicago memories, or Palo Alto, or innumerable other places, because the memories are associated with people and so many of the friendships and acquaintances are shared. God but we had some good times over there in 1990 and 1993. And you've been back there twice since our last visit. My insane jealousy is not getting any easier to bear. But thanks for refreshing the memories.

{{And to make your jealousy worse, last issue contained yet another trip report ... and next issue will contain another! EL}}

Ruth Berman

2809 Drew Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55416
June 3, 1996

Usually my "Once upon a Time" apazine Pooka is too specialized to use as a tradezine, but I thought I'd send you a copy of the current issue, with thanks for the two recent Gegenscheins, as its contents are more general and not so much apa-specific.

Sad news locally is the death of L.A. Taylor (combination of cancer and side effects of a difficult operation trying to get at the cancer). She had her first fantasy novel, Catspaw, published only recently (in previous years, she'd published also one sf novel, several murder mysteries, and a book of poetry), and it's sad that the other books she'd completed or had been working on haven't come out. She'd been moving into self-publishing, and had brought out a paperback edition of one of her mysteries, and a collection of some of her sf short stories (Women's Work), and was planning to bring out a particularly fine novel, The Godfather Experiment, which had been inexplicably turned down by the commercial publishers. I think her husband, Allen Sparer, will complete that project, however. It used to be a conventional piece of publishers' wisdom (?) that there were no really good unpublished novels running around loose - if they were really any good, someone would have bought them. I don't know if that line was ever true, but Taylor was one of the most notable examples of its falsity in today's market, with the publishers too afraid of what computers will do to their industry and too burdened by the debts incurred in being bought up by one another to take on much of anything new except likely best-sellers. Of course, publishers have to some extent always confused "best selling" with good. The two are sometimes the same, but there is no necessary connection.

George Flynn

PO Box 1069, Kendall Sq. Stn. Cambridge MA 02142 USA
30 May 1996

Thanks for Gegenschein 73 and 74.

It's depressing that of all the books you review in #73, I've read only three (though I own several others); mind you, those do include your two longest reviews. (And I did considerably better on the list in #74.)

I do not work for a computer company.

I don't have much opportunity for Web-surfing, so I'll have to hope for getting the paper version of your zines for a while yet.

Your essay on Worldcons in #74 was certainly interesting, and I'm going to call it to the attention of the Boston in 2001 committee (especially the bit about Boskone and Arisia!)

Actually, most of Gary Farber's convention going was in the days before e-mail (I have shared a room with him, lo, these many years ago). I think this year's Boskone was his first con since the '90 Corflu.

Leanne Frahm

272 Slade Point Rd
Slade Point Qld 4740

Oh Captain!  My Captain!  The awful deed is done.
The cheque is gone
To LA Con-
The voting has begun.
Oh Captain!  My Captain!  The counting is at hand.
We hear tis close,
Betwixt it flows
Croatia and Our Land.
Oh Captain!  My Captain!  The baleful war is done.
The foe's returned
And rightly spurned,
Australia has it won!
Oh Captain!  My Captain!  There's dancing in the streets.
In every town
A victor's crown
Applauds Down Under's feats.
But what is this?  My Captain lies there cold and grey.
His Printer Programme ate his Net in riotous disarray.
The mighty Bytes were overworked, and closed the VGA,
No more the OS/2 will heed the calling of the day.
Oh Captain!  My Captain!
The enemy is defeated-
But my Captain does not hear,
Alas, he's been deleted  ...

Pamela Boal

4 Westfield Way Charlton Heights Wantage Oxon OX12 7EW UK
4 June 1996

Thank you so much for Geg 73 and 74. I find the account of your travels particularly interesting and I'm always grateful for reviews.

You deserve more than this brief thank you note but alas I am at home here for roughly two days in each six weeks and have a minimum of twenty letters to write each time. To add to the fun my venerable Amstrad CPC6128 is now given to tantrums, especially the disc drive, which may or may nor accept my various programmes and saved to disc headings etc.

Strike the alas from the above paragraph, the reasons for my being away from home so much are entirely happy ones for me. For Derek and myself retirement should be renamed rejuvinationment. The opportunity to live on the river from April till October is a new lease of life. When we do come away from the river it is for happy events such as family gatherings or as recently a gathering of anglo american pen friends. My only reservation is the fear that as I am becoming such a poor correspondent friends will think I don't care about them and faneds will think I do not appreciate their zines. I do, I do!

Buck Coulson

2677W-500N, Hartford City, IN 47348 USA
12 June 96

Two Gegs to comment on. Convention membership of under 100 is reminiscent of one of the Indiana cons, Confabulation. Attendance somewhere around 100 or a bit over; their all-time high was 140. Pleasant though small. On the other hand, Marcon in Columbus, OH this year had over 2000 people. Very profitable for us, but not what you'd call easy-going. Came back exhausted.

I doubled my George Turner collecting at Wiscon by buying Beloved Son, Vaneglory and Yesterday's Men. Didn't care much for the first one but each book in the trilogy was an improvement over the previous one.

Cordial is a fairly common term. in the US, though I hope a flavor was appended. (I like some of the odd ones, like blackberry, but on the whole it's not one of my favorite drinks.)

I haven't seen Lloyd Eshbach in years, or Bill Bowers, either. Down to corresponding with Dave Locke. But I won't go to a Midwestcon to see them.

Those of us whose interest is huckstering (and partying and filking) enjoy the larger cons. {{Speaking of filking, I need to gather some filk song books for Aussiecon Three, and obtain rights to reprint some filk. Any suggestions? EL}}

Of course the Wolverine Motel allows dogs; they have to feed the wolverines somehow .... Presumably Anne Laurie wasn't on the menu; have you heard from her since? {{No EL}}

Have read few of the books you review, since I'm still not really back into reading stf since the end of my reviewing. But I'm working on it.

I'm enjoying the Turtledove series; the third book, Upsetting the Balance, is out in hardcovers and it ought to be in pb soon.

I'm not sure why Adrienne Losin says that "Even" in films and tv there are logical inconsistencies; on the whole, there are a lot more inconsistencies on tv than in print, though usually the action is fast enough that most of the audience never notices them.

Quite an Australian representation at Wiscon. I finally got to meet Jean, though we didn't say much beyond hello; she seemed to be pretty busy with the Australian party on whichever night it was held. (Friday? Saturday? All these things blur with time, not to mention the pouring rain on the way home.) I picked up a trade pb of Alien Shores at the con -- mostly because it had a story by Yvonne Rousseau in it -- and got the autographs of Lucy Sussex and Rosaleen Love for their stories. (Lucy recognized me and said hello; Rosaleen didn't have an idea who I was, I think. And vice versa; I'd heard the name, but knew nothing about her.)

{{ I'm putting web pages up about all the Australian SF authors I can get material about. I'd be happy to include copies of web pages with fanzines if anyone wants details of a particular author - or fans with web access can grab you copies. EL}}

Hm. I could have got all this into an aerogramme; have to think of more to say in order to justify the extra postage of a regular airmail letter.

Well, lessee, one person I was happy to see at Wiscon was Betsy Curtis. We have been exchanging Christmas cards every year, but Juanita and I hadn't seen her for probably 30 years or more. She had a few stories in the pulps, and is the mother of Maggie Thompson, who is a fairly close friend. Maggie was also there, gloating on having acquired enough of a staff at Comics Buyer's Guide that she can afford to get away from it now and then.

Last weekend we were back in Columbus, OH for a visit with Bruce and family. They're mostly into club fandom; Bruce is publishing the Marcon Committee newsletter (and, being his father's son, poking a few of the members to see how they react.) There were several fans over in the evenings, rehashing the convention operations, making remarks about the committee members who weren't there, and providing the usual fannish talk.

Today it didn't rain, so I mowed the grass. The midwest had a bad winter and a horrible spring. Juanita and I have still not mowed our entire lawn for the first time, though we might finish tomorrow if the weather remains clear. Our last previous mowing was June 6, and since it started to rain about the time I finished -- a few minutes before I finished, in fact -- I didn't clean out the grass wadded up under the mower housings. (I used both mowers; emptied the gas in one and without waiting to let that one cool, took the second one to finish.

The two days have had rain off and on, so I didn't mow. The mowers have been in the garage on a nice dry floor and out of the rain all this time. And when I started to clean out the grass before mowing today, it was still wet. Sitting in a dry garage for 6 days, and it hadn't dried out. That's been our weather all spring. Nothing dries out. That's been our weather ever since the last freeze. Meanwhile the grass grows; on the June 6 mowing I picked a grass stem out of the stuff I was mowing and measured it; it was 42 inches tall. The parts we mowed first badly need mowing again, but I intend to get all the way around first.

Somewhat more serious, the last figures we saw in the paper, perhaps 10 or 12 days ago, mentioned that only 20% of Indiana farmland had been planted this year, because the ground has been too wet. Farmers are going to be hurting - and so are consumers, by the end of the year. Lots of flooding in southern Indiana; water standing in the fields up here but it's not counted as a flood. Reading about flooding in Yesterday's Men, I felt right at home.

Friday we'll be going down to the Wilbur Wright Memorial in south-central Indiana, so Juanita can get some more Wilbur Wright caps. She has one, but wants some in different colors. Then Saturday is MY 50th highschool reunion. My 40th was sort of interesting, so I'll try it again, though it's hardly likely that my third-grade teacher, who was present at the 40th, is still in shape to make this one. My school was so small that the reunions are for everyone who ever graduated from the school. (And since the school was consolidated with several others in 1967, the reunions will gradually become smaller until eventually every graduate is dead. But since it continued for 20 years after I graduated, I won't see the end of them.) I'm just hoping that I'll see somebody that I liked; I wasn't exactly the most popular kid in school.

Elli the dog continues to regain courage slowly. Actually barked at a couple of bicyclists on the road the other day, though I'm not sure she realized they were human -- just something strange and therefore to be barked at. Almost totally comfortable with Juanita and I, though she still cringes when I go out to see what she's barking at. Somebody really did a job on her when she was a puppy. Taking her with us to see Bruce and family was traumatic for her, but she survived -- and was much happier on the way home. Very suspicious and afraid of anything new and different.

jan howard finder

164 Williamsburg Court Albany, NY 12203 USA
12 Jun 96

It is nice to have some time to answer zines. I received G 73 and 74 yesterday in the mail. As with most of us in the real world, I shall have to be satisfied with the paper version of your zine.

Good luck with your bread making machine. I'm thinking of getting one for myself. It would be the best of all worlds if the machine has both 50 and 60Hz systems. So that it would be portable if one travels. I guess the assumption is that one will give away everything and buy new stuff if one were to move. It is great for electronics industry.

To a great extent I agree with what you say about the purpose and function of the Worldcon. Yes, it is a literary directed con. However, while I don't think it should go out of its way for other aspects of SF, it should NOT exclude them. One of the reasons Boskone fell on hard times is its exclusion of all aspects of costuming, plus an attitude which turned off a lot of potential con going fans. It seem to have realized that it has gone overboard in its attitude. However, I rather doubt if you'll see a masquerade at Boskone.

Albacon 96 is oriented towards the literary ends of things, tho we are providing a place for other areas of SF. However, we are not going out of our way, hence, since we are not doing it their way, the local ST, SW and gamers are ignoring us. I feel it is their loss.

Yes, LIFE IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT! I enjoyed your trip reports in both issues. It may be a long time before I get back to the West Coast of the US. Being back in school takes time and money. Being retired means that while I MAY have the time, I sure don't have the money.

I shall be out there for LACon, will I see you or Jean there? I get in on the 28th; I'll be staying at the Marriott. I have driven to a number of cons this past Spring and have the luck to split a room with a chap I traveled with last summer when the gang of 4, plus sleeping beauty, did the Loch Ness trip on the way to Glasgow. This helped. After school was out (I did ok, getting 2 A's in my courses.) I headed up to Nova Scotia. I had a free membership in Wolfcon. I stayed with the Longyear's on the way up. They are neat folk. I may try and get up there in DEC or JAN for some skiing with Barry. They also hosted a Barbie, using me as an excuse to get some fannish types together. The con was neat. I ended up being sort of a guest. I knew no one except for 2 of the guests, and no one knew me, tho a few folk had heard of me. It was a little bit different from the usual state of things. Ego control situation. They were most kind and treated me well. I was put on a lot of programming; I had offered to do things. However, due to the locale and scarcity of pros, all the guests were up there by themselves. It was the program participant and the audience. I did drag CJ Cherryh in to help on one panel. The con was loosely, but fairly well organized. There were no major screw ups. However, I did meet with a number of masochistic psychopaths. They want to bring a Worldcon to Halifax. I tried to dissuade them, but I don't think I succeeded. Sigh! We'll see if they will host a party at LACON. On the way back I stayed with the Eastons, who also live in Maine. On the way home the next day I visited with a Dutch mystery writer who lives in Maine. We had a very nice chat.

If all goes well and I manage to dump my house up in Watertown, I'll probably be in the market for a computer towards the end of the year. I expect to get more than I need. Hey, it is my toy. What I get depends upon several factors, including whether or not I'll be in Oz for most of 98. If so, I'll be looking for a top of the line laptop to run the other stuff here, but will be able to take it with to Oz. Your suggestions on what to look for will be appreciated. I hear Intel just came out with a 200HR Pentium. It could be fast enough.

The rest of the summer is both hectic and quiet. I'll be driving up to see The Place when my tenants move out at the end of June. The following weekend I'm down to the Philly area for a friends wedding handfasting. At the beginning of August I'm back in the Philly area for a relaxacon and to twist arms to buy memberships in Albacon 96. The following weekend I'll be in Louisville for Rivercon. Some time before or after I'll also be dropping by the Saturn plant in TN. Besides it being just for the hell of it, I want to see if they can help get me into a GM/Holden dealership for my internship in Oz. I want to be Service Manager at the first Saturn dealership in Oz: SATURN OF THE OUTBACK! Serious about the internship part, joking about the rest. I will during the trip head over to Norfolk and finally meet in person Noel Jackson. He will be starting PhD studies at Old Dominion Un. We've been writing for some time now. So the first couple of weeks in August will be crazy. 3 days after school begins I'll be off to LA.

This weekend I may well drive down to Rhinebeck, NY, to visit the airdrome there. They fly WWI vintage planes and do an airshow. I think one can get rides in them as well. The heat and humidity are supposed to break. It has been in the low 30's with humidity in the 150 to 200% range, well it feels like that.

I enjoyed the book reviews. I'll have to look for a couple of the ones you mentioned which I have missed. The local library is quite good at getting and having books.

Aw come on, just who was the dweeb (or sook?) who led the bid for the Brisbane NatCon. Is the truth subject to lawsuits in Oz. And I thought WE had a screwed up legal system. I believe that Dennis Stocks was cheated a little bit by the twit. Now there is a chap who deserves a little bit of recognition for his work in fandom, even tho he no longer does a whole lot.

One problem for Oz seems to be that tho there are a goodly number of fans, they are clumped in the major cities which just happen to be quite a distance from one another. This makes it somewhat difficult to get them together. How expensive are buses, trains or planes in getting around?

Lucy Schmeidler just sent me a copy of her articles in Eidolon. I haven't had the chance to read them yet. Just got here. She was a big help in getting the Lunarians to send out an Albacon 96 flyer with their mailings - We need all the publicity we can get - ( We now have 100 pre-reg, including dealers - each table comes with one membership. We need about 100 more to come close to break even - If we get the 300 we want, we will do very well. Of course, we hope that not all show up at the door. We have about 15+ pros coming. By the way do check out our web page. Leave a note. Holders of Aussie passports get in free!)

I must 2nd your comments on Harlan. I have met him very briefly from time to time. My dealings have all been quite positive with him. It was interesting to note that one con I saw him and approached him to say how much I liked his story just published. When I mentioned I had recently read the story, he was quite defensive and somewhat edgy. It was as if he expected me to attack him. When I said that I really liked it, he was effusive with his thanx and appeared quite relieved. It really pisses me off to think that a lot of people think the way to approach a writer, especially Harlan, is to try and put them down.

Darn, I was looking for the ego-boo of appearing in G! However, no word was made of our meeting at the 94 Westercon. Sigh! Being dissed hurts.

Alan Stewart, please pass on my invite to any Aussies making their way to our fair NE. Weekends are best as I'm in school. My only caveat is that my home is a non-smoking zone. Perpetrators will be violated! I would love to play host. Oh yes, no firewood needs be stacked! However, saying nice things about my Saturn are appreciated.

Looking forward to getting back to Rivercon. There are a number of folk I haven't seen for years. It was the first American SF con I ever went to. That was back in 76. I freaked out the folk at registration. When they demanded an ID, I pulled out my passport. After all, for the past 5 years whenever I got on a plane for a con or to travel I always carried it with me. It was part of me travelling. Hmm, I may just do it again. It has been 20 years. Ghod!

I just finished deconstructing my 2nd Upfield novel. It is slow reading to do each word and know you still miss something. I have to now do a synopsis of the two novels I have done. I'm learning that in doing a compendium, there are more things than just "Persons, Places and Things."

In reading the novels this closely, there are comments in there that make me cringe. Yet, it would be interesting, and I hope to do it, go thru the reviews of his novels at the time and see if there were ANY comments by Aborigines on the books. I'm also hoping to see if I can find detailed maps of the story locales from the time he wrote the novels. It would be interesting to compare them to the maps I have from NRMA published in the 80's.

As I noted I my be over in 98. Part of the program in Auto tech is working in a live lab, i.e., real cars, or with a dealership. It took me a while, but I realized that I WAS A STUDENT AGAIN! I could apply for Overseas Study programs. Of course, no one had the slightest idea of how to deal with my request so I had to research it myself. I am in touch with TAFE, but they seem very confused as well. The Australian Education Office in DC sent my name to Colorado State Uni's AustraLearn. They do set up internships. I called and they seemed to think they could do exactly what I want to do. I want to do my internship with a dealer, but in some outback city/town in Oz. I would spend 32 weeks working full-time in the service department. I would have a checklist of things I would have to do in order to satisfy the course requirements. This all takes time, not to mention the visas and my advisor hears 98 and thinks all the time in the world. I'm gong to keep after him. I want to get the ball rolling by the end of the summer. The group in Oz which sets up the internships is called Global Education Designs and is in, I think, Sydney. I finish my last major course in auto tech in DEC 97. So I would like to begin the program in JAN of 98. (No fool I, summer is winding down by the time I get there to someplace like Coober Pedy or Alice Springs. Yeah, it is still hot, but DRY!!!) I would like to get most things in place by the end of THIS year. There are a lot of things I have to take care of if I am gong to make the trip. I also have to see about getting a tourist visa for the time after my internships I want to spend the Spring wandering about visiting. folk, before heading back Up Over. I'll get a motorhome and spend 6 months doing part of my GTIO. You want to come with? Remember my rules before you say yes.

I enjoying my summer vacation so far.

Well, I've nattered on enough. Drop a line if the urge gets overwhelming. Say hi to Jean for me . Chuck will pass on e-mail messages to me. It may take a day or two, but faster and cheaper. Plus you can tell me about for the Aussie Presence at LACON? I'm looking forward to helping out a little bit. Ciao and teggeddizzi! May the Ghreat Wombat smile on you!

David Thayer

eushar at exu ericsson se
Thu, 6 Jun 1996

Please put me on the e-mail notification list for the next issue of Gegenschein and have Jean delete me from your paper copy mailing list. The only drawback for you is that if you enjoy my postcards, you will probably receive fewer of them. I will send you e-mail messages of comment (emocs) however.

I have added "Eric's Science Fiction Page" to my hot buttons in Netscape. For a good time, surf over to to have a look at the "Teddy Harvia Art Gallery".

Beast wishes, Teddy Harvia

Michael Kube-McDowell

73740.15 at CompuServe COM
11 Jun 96

I was putting my office in order this past weekend and came across my copy of Issue 72 of Gegenschein, and thought I'd drop a quick note to let you know what's been happening.

I'm nearing the end of what seems like the most breathtakingly intense sixteen months of my life. In that span, Gwen and I have moved 100 truck feet of Stuff from an apartment into a house and welcomed two children (Amanda, born last March, and Gavin, born this May) into the family; in my professional life, I've written two and two-thirds novels, seen one of them (BEFORE THE STORM) spend three weeks on the NYTimes and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists, celebrated the release of The Black Book Band's live album (FIRST CONTACT), and signed a contract to collaborate on a novel (TRIGGER) with Arthur C. Clarke.

It's been an exciting but exhausting run down this particular set of rapids, and I'm looking forward to having some time to devote to other pursuits -- like finishing the job of unpacking, making some music, visiting with friends, reading a book for pleasure, and, most of all, taking an afternoon or a weekend off now and again to just _play_, without guilt. There's nothing like not having time to have fun to make a fellow feel prematurely old--


   ---] Michael Paul McDowell, writing as Michael P. Kube-McDowell [---
   ---]    For more info:    [---
   ---]  or  [---

David Thayer

eushar at xu ericsson se
Tue, 11 Jun 1996

Fans cannot resist the temptations of the future. A few balked at the transition from mimeo to photocopy, from typewriter to desktop publishing. But most fan editors move to where the audiences are. I think web sites and e-mail will eventually take over fandom. Imagine the thrill of reaching hundreds of readers without the drudgery and expense of mailing labels, postage, and envelopes.

What I like best about cyberspace is the speed of responses. Downloading large files is another matter. I must buy more ram.

Beast wishes, Teddy

Murray Moore

377 Manly Street, Midland Ontario L4R 3E2 Canada
murray.moore at encode com
Tue, 11 Jun 1996

Gegenschein 73 and 74 arrived yesterday, June 10. The mailing label records my street address as 37 Manly Street, instead of the correct 377 Manly Street. A copy of Sacred Trust I mailed to Harry Warner Jr. came back to me from Hagerstown because I shortened his street address number. I would hate a Gegenschein to be returned to your side of the planet because of an almost-but-not-quite-right street address.

And remember, if your practice is to send all Gegenscheins through FAPA, I will get them through FAPA, having joined as of the February mailing.

My comments about the contents of GEGs 73 and 74 will follow. {{I wonder when? EL}}

R Laurraine Tutihasi

71613.1227 at CompuServe COM
12 Jun 96

My interest was piqued by your mention of the T-shirt with the "You are here ... Your luggage is there" imprint. My significant other had his first flight on Northwest, and they temporarily lost his luggage. It was finally delivered to his destination in the wee hours of the morning. I told him about the shirt, and he is definitely interested in getting one. If Scott Dennis still sells them, he will have two more customers.

I think "jam" and "jelly" are used pretty much interchangeably over here. "Jello" is what we call your "jelly."

I didn't consider Control C when I had problems getting my floppy disk to recognize that I'd changed floppies. That happened when my current computer was new. I had to swap out mother boards due to the clock not working on the first one. The replacement was a different kind and didn't like the arrangement of the floppy connections and controllers. Eventually, I ended up getting all that replaced.

I hadn't heard of Rib King in Cincinnati. We went to the Boat House for ribs.

You misspelled my name twice in your report; but since you got it right at least once, I think you just need to proof read.

Thanks for the book reviews. Once in a while, you review a book that piques my interest. The plot sounds similar to an idea I had but never managed fully to develop.

George Flynn

P.O. Box 1069, Kendall Sq. Stn. Cambridge, MA 02142, USA
Dec 13, 1995

Thanks for WeberWoman's Wrevenge 48 and Gegenschein 72 (as I combine two locs into one to save postage). Interesting material throughout both zines, though I don't have a whole lot to say about either.

I mentioned at Ditto, my letter in WWW (dated "9 December 1995") seems to have been sent through a time warp. Stranger still, it actually was 9 December 1995 when I finally finished reading this issue ...

Hey, I belong to the Society for Technical Communication (though I've never gotten to a conference). And I therefore read the newsletter that Ron Salomon's Lori has been managing editing. Strange: I live a few miles from Ron, but for years I've encountered him only in the pages of fanzines ...

I see you're both enthusiastic about Permutation City, which I've just read myself. Count me as another who eagerly seeks out all the Greg Egan works I can find.

Somehow I doubt that I'll ever get to Tasmania. *sigh*

And lest I forget, the Aussiecon Memory Book is great!

Lloyd Penney

412-4 Lisa St. Brampton, ON CANADA 1,6T 4136
December 27, 1995

Many thanks for two copies of Geqenschein 72. One came in the mail, and the other came with the Ain99 flyers. I will save a copy for a fanzine table somewhere down the road, and loc the other one ...

It may have been your turn to get to Midwestcon in 1994, but Yvonne and I did get to it in 1995. We did feel a little left out, and it was a strenuous trip for Yvonne (our only driver), so as fannish as that event is, I don't think we'll be goinq back soon. Perhaps later on, when we've outlasted most of the other fans in this area, and the newer fans look down on us.

A huge number of book reviews here ... I wish I could say I've read most of them, but I can't. However, I have read some, and can readily agree with general comments. I get very tired of the ultra-military and super-fascist SF that came from many pens, in the 1980s, and now that the Soviet Union has dried up and blown away, the new target is much more generalized (if it isn't a Saddam Hussain type character). I've read a little, of David Feintuch's work, and I am reminded of the worst of the Pournelle - Drake school of SF writing.

With so many reviews, there's not much for me to comment on, so I will wish that you and Jean (didn't say this in her loc) had the very best of the holiday, and that you're ready to keep slugging through a hot summer. (I'll mail you both a snowball.) Take care, and See you next Issue.

Richard J. Faulder

P.O. Box 136 Yanco NSW 2703 Australia
emai1:faulder at agric nsw gov eu
3rd March 1996

To have you describe my trip report as detailed, compared with the minute detail of your own reports, is, I hope, a compliment and not irony. Mind you, the names I could have dropped would have been from the arachnological community, and instantly unrecognisable to any of the people to whom I was writing. On the other hand, I neglected to mention that the excursion held during the arachnological congress was to le Parc du Jurassique. (The congress programme had a note 'Dinosaurs not expected")

Your assumption that anybody with access to the internet will have full access to the various web pages is not necessarily correct. NSW Agriculture's access to the World Wide Web is via a program called lynx, running under Unix, which is text only, and not a GUI. Given the growth of web pages, including catalogues of scientific equipment and chemical supply firms, this is a definite irritation.

{{The web version of Gegenschein (and all my pages) should be readable with Lynx and similar text only browsers. I try to check it for HTML 2.0 compatibility, which is handled correctly by Lynx. EL}}

I bought one of those frozen food defrosting plates through a mail-order firm, which made it sound as though it sucked heat out of the ambient environment, which it doesn't - you have to add heat to it, once at the beginning and then again halfway through the process. Had I noticed that it was also for sale in a couple of local shops I would not have bought it at all.

Your claim that Worldcon can't be the biggest and best in every single area has a certain amount of truth. On the other hand, to then say that, by implication, people who don't know the origin of Boskone and Arisia are not truefen is unreasonable. Given the huge amount of science fiction now available, not all new fen will have had the opportunity to read the Doc Smith books, in much the same way I haven't read many of the more recent books.

{{Given Doc Smith's status as "Father of Space Opera", and the way SF films and TV series have drawn upon the concepts of that era, it is a real pity that fans now tend to lack the opportunity to read the stories that started it all. The Thor Power Tools ruling, and the takeover of publishing priorities by feral accountants, are very likely to cause us to lose our SF history. EL}}

Actually I don't remember beggars as such in LAX, although there was one person collecting for a local charity. I don't see why you complain about beggars. They are only conducting their own private enterprise. As to your other complaints about LAX, I didn't find it too large, too crowded, or too noisy, nor do I recall any real difficulty finding the terminal for my Delta Airlines flight. Perhaps they renovated the place in the intervening nine months.

I think that the reason for much of the bad science in science fiction is that the people who write it are non-technical people. This is probably why the amount of fantasy is rising. On the other hand, how much good science fiction is written by technical people?

Chester D. Cuthbert

1104 Mulvey Avenue Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 1J5
June 12, 1996

Gegenscheins 73 and 74 arrived in the same envelope and it was delightful to again have news of you. How you manage to publish such wonderful fanzines in addition to travelling and handling a job and reading so many books is beyond my understanding. I've been retired for over thirty years and I cannot accomplish all the things I should do, let alone the things I wish to do.

A friend of mine died and willed his huge science fiction collection (about 27,000 items) to the University of Winnipeg, whose librarians asked me to estimate the value of it. I knew Bob Stimpson for twenty years, and am familiar with his habits of collecting, and I sold him over $11,000 worth of stuff over that period of time, but my best guess was "hundreds of thou- sands of dollars, possibly approaching a million" at today's values. It is taking the library three days to move the stuff from the house to the storage space it will occupy, so I am now expecting a report from David Blair, a fellow member of First Fandom, who will try to organize the collection.

I'll let you know what happens.

Having quit collecting three years ago, your reviews are unlikely to prompt me to purchase anything, but you do write concisely and perceptively.

I never attend conventions, not even the Worldcon held in Winnipeg two years ago, and although David expects to go to Los Angeles this year, and went to Glasgow last year, he is only 73 years old and knows personally many famous authors; conventions mean much more to him than to me.

I have two recent letters from Buck Coulson to answer, so must do a little research.

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