Gegenschein 87 May 2000

Jean's Father Dies

20 June 2000, Australian time

A week before we had everything organised. On Tuesday 20th June, I would take my truck driver test (there was a cancellation that let me finally get a booking), and we would leave that afternoon, or the next day. There was a meeting point for the Mackay branch of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) about 150 km from Mackay late on Thursday 22nd, and we would then join them for a trip to the various gemfield towns like Rubyvale and Emerald over the weekend. Afterwards we would go further west to Longreach, and then head north towards Mt Isa, and then if the weather had left the roads passable, to the Gulf country and see Craig and Julia Hilton at Doomadgee near Burketown.

A local mechanic checked up the truck on the weekend. Almost the only outstanding item was to replace the belts, with some uncertainty as to when they would arrive. We were basically ready to go, with heaps of stuff ferried out to the truck and most of it packed.

On Monday, it being Father's Day in the USA, Jean phoned home. Her father wasn't sufficiently well to come to the phone. We started planning to take a trip back to see her parents again a lot earlier than we originally intended, aiming to get away by mid July. We discovered that you had trouble travelling unless your passport had six months to go to expiry. Jean had about four months on hers, so she visited the post office, filled in forms, and sent the passport off for a renewal.

On Tuesday I did my licence test, took the motorhome back to where we store it, phoned Jean to collect me, and we celebrated quietly with a meal at the pub on the way home.

Back home, the phones were not working, as the road crew down the hill had cut all the cables for several streets. Well, either phones, power, or water. You get used to little problems like that around here, given all the construction going on.

Jean got a call on her mobile mid afternoon from her mother in the USA. Her father had died a short time ago. Jean's sister and husband were visiting them from California, so at least there was someone else on hand.

I headed off to try to find when the phones would be working. Spending a half hour on hold trying to talk to the passport people didn't seem a good idea at mobile phone rates. The people repairing the wires said sometime tonight.

The post office gave me the details of where the passport application was sent, and the numbers to phone to try to get things speeded up. Given that "overnight express mail" takes three days to reach us here, we were not encouraged.

The local travel agent helpfully located a potential flight for Jean. It seemed a real horror trip, from Cairns to Japan, to Vancouver, and then somehow to Seattle and was on Thursday, leaving little time to organise papers, and get to Cairns (600 km away) to start the overseas flights. At this time we had no idea whether Jean needed to rush to get to the funeral, or whether there was some time available, and there just didn't seem to be much available in the way of regular flights.

Jean used a public phone on the street to start to chase the passport application, which hadn't even been entered in the passport office tracking system yet. I chased my bank to get some money available. We both made long lists of things to get done urgently, many of them mutually exclusive. Then we managed to get most of them done (including emailing the news to a handful of fans) during the course of the evening, and next day.

On Wednesday we had more information. Jean needed to be in Lacey, not far from Seattle, by 5 July, and the full military funeral was scheduled on the east coast at Arlington national cemetary on 7 July. With her sister having to return to California on the weekend, Jean wanted to get over as soon as she reasonably could. But she still had to stay around waiting for the passport, so we aimed for a flight on Monday 26 June. The connections meant she had to fly out of here before midday on Sunday 25 July.

Another phone call to the passport people, who tell Jean to fax them the airline booking details. Only later do we realise that the Proserpine annual show starts on Friday, and many businesses will be closed for show day. This may include the post office. I guess we find out soon. Oh yes, and I think the Olympic torch relay hits town on the weekend as well, and that will close the only road out of town for some time.

Alan Rosenthal kindly phoned to say Clarion West was on for six weeks in Seattle, so maybe Jean can get there for part of a weekend and catch up with some fans.

The latest little glitch in this is that I got about 40 messages (many repeats) that my email about all this couldn't be delivered due to bad connections outside this area.

This update on 22 June 2000 did not appear on the paper version of Gegenschein.

Aussiecon Three

Monday 30 Aug 1999

While our Aussiecon Three started when Gregory Benford and Elizabeth Malartre arrived at Airlie Beach, and continued partying with Joe and Gay Haldeman and Rusty Hevelin, as reported in Gegenschein 86, I'm only going to report the recent events this issue. Possibly my convention commenced in 1992 when I started bidding.

We packed. Luggage weighs 27 kg and 26 kg! This is not a good start, for someone once able to take six month trips on what would fit in an airline carry-on bag. Luckily the contents of our bags are mostly to give away at the convention, including lots of books, fanzines, plus toads for David Russell. The toads were a bulky but light addition from Geri Sullivan, who also primed numerous other fans to give David toads. The bags only just fit in the boot of Jean's Ford Laser. This is also not a good sign, considering we will be driving fans home with us.

It being difficult to manage flights from Proserpine, the closest airport, we drove the 150 kilometres to have an afternoon in Mackay, and found swim suits at Target lots cheaper. Found a computer shop willing to get a Pentium fan in for Jean, and later found Easy Internet on Sydney Street had them on hand. Shopping honours and superfluous technology needs were satisfied.

Went to our usual haunt, the Coffee Club, for gigantic open sandwiches with Kerry and Leanne Frahm. As always had a great time chattering with them. Kerry has now convinced me that swimming pools are so complicated to maintain that I think I always want someone else to be doing the maintaining. Despite a great evening, I didn't sleep well, which is a real great start to the con.

Tuesday 31 August 1999

Up at unghodly hour, and Leanne sacrifices sleep to drive us to the Mackay airport around 6 a.m. Our bags promptly get labelled with a big red "overweight" tag, thanks to the books and fanzines. To my surprise we get a decent hot breakfast on the mostly empty Ansett flight 261 to Brisbane, but nothing on the longer, larger, packed out Brisbane to Melbourne flight 63. Weird.

Our taxi took us into Melbourne via the new Citylink expressway. They still can't get the charging mechanism to work correctly, so it didn't cost extra. It sure seemed fast, and the taxi was a little over $25. Lots of Silicon Valley fans recognisable when we went into reception at the main convention hotel, the Centra. We chatted with fans before heading to our room.

First item was shopping. We managed to wander into Justin Ackroyd's Slow Glass Books and had a brief chat with a hyperactive Justin. He was surrounded with boxes for the convention, some of them from other booksellers less than well packed (our books arriving from Justin are typically protected against almost anything short of a bomb blast). It took a while to locate the Post Office for a large box and packing tape for sending off fanzines. Then Jean insisted on "The Search for Food". Myers and David Jones deli had some semi-acceptable snack food, although I wasn't overly impressed.

Off to Office Works, for their 6 cents a side copying. The "card in slot copy machine" does lousy copies, with streaks down the side. Obviously something hadn't been maintained. A very helpful staff member tries and fails to improve the quality. We leave stuff for Office Works to do overnight. An issue of Jean's WeberWoman's Wrevenge, Gegenschein 85 and Gegenschein 86, FAPA mailing comments, stuff for ANZAPA, stuff for WOOF, handouts for the convention, etc. I figure it should be about two boxes worth.

We finally find a distinctly inferior Coles supermarket in the Central Business District, and buy a whole $15.83 of food for the entire convention week. Well, weetbix, snacks, milk and coke just don't cost all that much.

Back at the Centra, Stephen Boucher looks entirely too calm for a hotel liaison person. We check the armful of copies Office Works did, and mutter about the mistakes on lots of copies. We hope for better with the stuff we gave them for overnight.

Jean collapses at 5, and I head for the bar where I see would be Worldcon chair and great cider maker Tom Whitmore together with Marci Malinowitz. Ex Worldcon chair Tim and Chris Illingworth, but you expect to find the Brits in the bar, Aussiecon treasurer Rose Mitchell and lots of the Aussiecon gang. Mark Loney is there, so I unbundled a large packet of books on him. Mark Linneman buys me a drink, so I figure that things are certainly improving. Not that I'm sure he will hear about this, as his old email address was bouncing.

Registration is doing a trial run, so I thank David Evans for the PC show tickets he obtained for us. Long time fan Bill Wright comes by, shows off a stunning Ditmar zine, Dick Jensen's first since the 1960's. Another Ex Worldcon chair Peggy Rae Pavlat wandered in (and her email address was also bouncing). DUFF winner and rescuer of Aussiecon program software Janice Gelb wanders in. Twelve of us follow Aussiecon Three Chairman Perry Middlemiss to the casino area in search of food. Cries of "baa, baa" follow as we sheepishly wander to the end of the earth, and back again. The $15.50 Sante Restaurant casino buffet sucks bigtime by comparison with Vegas, however the quantities were OK. Perry keeps making or receiving urgent phone calls, whether walking or eating. I remain surprised that he was willing to talk with me.

Back at the bar Greg Turkich (whose email address is also bouncing) buys me drink (things are looking up again), tells of his new Federal police job, and the security T shirts he hopes his crew will like. He also talked about how rough the ride was in an Oka vs Land Cruiser, as the WA police use the Oka in some areas. Various fans say Melbourne is an expensive city, so I assume they have seen the Centra room rates (or bought something in the bar). Greg Benford asks about checks and balances in Australian politics, and I try to explain the benign neglect policy of law enforcement.

Alyson Abramowitz was mad at us for a lack of an invitation to stay at Airlie Beach (we have stayed with Alyson numerous times, so this seems pretty reasonable). I didn't see any messages from her, and said so, and it turns out her message went only to Jean and got lost. As usual, Alyson and I talk techie re internet censorship and spamming, and give up after midnight.

Wednesday 1st September 1999

As promised to David Evans, stuffing the Aussiecon bags was the first item for the day, with Sydney fan and Sydney Worldcon enthusiast Garry Dalrymple, Spawncon, Masquerade and ANZAPA organiser Marc Ortlieb, Jean Weber, and several others. Posters rolling falls behind, but the main constraint was finding space for all the completed bags.

The Souvenir book included a great joke by Nick Stathopoulos on the back cover. It showed a statue of Jeff Kennett, then Premier of Victoria, in ruins. And so it was to happen, a few months later, to the great delight of many of our fan friends.

Off to the nearby computer show, where the only items of interest to me are several tiny portable OCR scanners. Can't get straight answers from the vendors of most of them. Checked out all the ECommerce vendors, also without getting straight answers. I did see a CDROM Rom burner for $379, which is a pretty good price, but I need one that will run on a portable computer.

Back at the Centra I saw Steve Davies from Plokta, who takes my computer show entry pass for his visit, thus saving an entry fee. I entertain hopes of getting a drink at the bar eventually, before realising the bar is too crowded, too noisy, and too smokey. Jeff Harris turns up and we talk briefly.

Then Jean and I rush off towards the Office Works. We see Tom Whitmore on the street near the Sherlock Holmes, an old English pub. Tom points out that it doesn't have cider on tap. Nor, I must admit, did any of the bars at Airlie Beach. We collect our fanzine printing from Office Works. It costs $127 or so for 150 of Geg 85 and 150 of Geg 86 plus misc stuff for our various businesses and agencies.

Back to the bar, saw George RR Martin in the lobby. Jane and Scott Denis had their Fopaws staff all primed with details of customers. The Applix and Linux shirts I had ordered perhaps four or five years before were behind the counter. Somehow one or anther of us had always forgotten these shirts other times we had met. I saw Gay Haldeman, saw Rusty Hevelin heading for the DUFF dinner. Saw John Maezels, who seems to know heaps about AV work. He is in the room next to us, but don't think I saw him again until near the end of the con.

Dinner was at Automatic cafe near the casino with John Stanley, Jeanne Mealy, Mark Linneman, Damien Saunders, and another US fan whose name I don't seem to have recorded. While the food was good and reasonably priced, the music (if that is what it be) was far too loud. Several in our party complained about the level, and asked it be turned down. As a result of the music, I could hear almost nothing of the conversation, and would never use that cafe again. Being outside, we were near the fire belching pillars the casino ran from 7 p.m. to midnight. On the hour these high metal pillars, extending down the street, would erupt with great balls of fire. We found we were so close you hardly had to ask for barbecued food - you probably could just hold it out to the pillars to have it singed! I didn't like to think what would happen if the gas delivery mechanism ever went wrong.

At the con, I wore my propeller beanie. Bill Wright wants me to import them, but I don't think there is a large market. I believe there was a Nova Mob meeting scheduled at the crowded and smokey bar, but the smoke kept me from searching hard. I saw Bruce Barnes for the first and I think last time, with his Psion. The Brit fans all recognised these gadgets, of course (I was taking notes for this on my Psion). Saw Lise Eisenberg who I believe had better accommodation at the All Seasons Grand. That hotel worked much better for the Anzapa and Dead Dog parties. Pat and Roger Sims were running the CFG suite up in 1010 in the Centra, and not letting the hotel know they had a quiet party there. Saw Bill and Cokie Cavin, Perry Middlemiss, and Stephen Boucher all there. It was a wonderful oasis of peaceful conversation during the con, although with Roger still recovering from a bypass it was not running long hours.

Thursday 2 September 1999

I stapled Geg 85 during the day, some of it by stuffing a bundle in my bag and doing it whenever I managed to sit down. Luckily the hotel supplied a small stapler. Unluckily, I hadn't thought to specify that I wanted them stapled when at Office Works. Saw and talked with innumerable people, but because I was often stapling, I didn't record much in my Psion.

At the iLounge that Cybersource were running, we enlisted the aid of the support guy Richard Muirden and tried to download Joe Haldeman's email, something that apparently hadn't been possible since he had visited and collected it at my place. With the iLounge having a heap of PCs using Linux, and Netscape, and one server doing the sharing, it wasn't real fast, nor real compatible with his Macintosh. We got a lot of help from Richard Muirden, who was running it, and finally downloaded a collection of email onto the hard disk (reading it on-line with a 15 minute time slot, just doesn't work when you have 1500 messages outstanding). Naturally the email file was bigger than a floppy disk, so I had to split it. Of course on a Linux system you can't just stick a disk in and have it work. The person who controls the system has to give appropriate permissions and mount the disk, and Richard didn't have much experience using floppy disks on a Unix system (why would you?). In the end we were successful, but it took a lot longer and a lot more effort than planned.

Two issues of The Monotreme appeared each day. The big news item was Babylon 5 writer and producer John Michael Straczynski's plane had turned back due to engine trouble and he and his wife Kathryn M Drennan were not expected until Friday. Bit of a disappointment for the Babylon 5 fans, as several sessions had to be rescheduled. Damn hard on the JMS party also, as a trans Pacific flight is not easy under the best of circumstances.

I missed the Perth natcon in 2001 party in Riverside Apartments, and never actually found their exact location.

As a FOOL (Friend of Old Langford) I attended the Auld Lang Fund party at 5 p.m. at the All Seasons Grand on Spencer Street. This was an initiative of Marc Ortlieb and Eve and John Harvey, and Marc raised $1040 in Australia. We broke up early to go to Opening Ceremonies, and Bruce Gillespie's very informative GoH speech (which should also have been listed as part of the Fanhistorica program, I think). Later we listened to Dave convulse the audience as he proclaimed quotes from Thog's Master Class.

The Bay Area in 2002 party in the Centra's Bridge 2 room was the large party for the evening, but ran out of supplies very quickly. Cheryl Morgan was rightly unhappy with the Centra hotel. Kevin Standlee was still beaming, although I suspect it was a strain. As you might expect from hotels that don't really want guests of our sort, the Centra were sticking to a price schedule only large and profitable companies could afford, and wouldn't allow outside catering. The Bay Area bid wisely cancelled the party for Friday night. No sense making the Centra hotel even richer.

The traditional Mpls in 73 party was held in Room 501 at the All Season's Grand at 10 p.m. Crowded and noisy, in a great split level room. As far as I can tell, no-one had any problem with the All Season's Grand and their treatment of parties. Unfortunately, their largest guest rooms, although fine for the smaller parties, just couldn't take all the fans who might attend a widely promoted party.

I think I ended the evening at the CFG suite in the Centra, where you could talk with people.

Friday 3rd September 1999

The Monotreme asks for Costume entries. Rumours fly that photographers outnumber costumes.

Stapled Geg 86 today, while wandering around. I had panels at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. At the Casino shops I found The Sharper Image, which had no gadgets I wanted for once, and The Chocolate Box at which I got $9 of expensive but good chocolate. That was my chocolate purchases for the rest of the year. There were book launches to attend after my panel.

Three Worldcons panel. Hmm, wonder what happened?

DUFF winner Janice Gelb tells me programming spreadsheet stories, when I catch her between rushing from one thing to another.

Garry Dalrymple continues pressing his Sydney bid for a Worldcon, and circulates a sheet of national anthems for fans to sing. I cringe at the thought of fannish karaoke, but didn't want to sound too discouraging.

There was a book launch at 7 p.m. in You Yangs 1, and I caught the last few moments of it. Women of Other Worlds edited by Helen Merrick and Tess Williams at Ballarine. This is an international feminist sf collection with fiction, poetry, criticism, fan-writing, even a recipe. UWA Press, $29.95 ISBN 1876268328 Justin sells lots of copies, departs with large smile and bulging pockets.

Caught up with Parris, Joe and Gay Haldeman at the Corporate area of the Centra after the launch of the Dreaming DownUnder collection Jack Dann and Janeen Webb edited. Although I had an invitation, I was on another panel at the start.

Don't think the voodoo board had been set up at that point. Not sure who eventually did make one up, but suspect it was one of the US volunteers. Although it was one of the things we had mentioned needing back several years before when planning, I don't believe many of the Australians had ever seen one.

Karen Herkes and Carol Botts were doing an ACT Science Fiction web site formerly at

The banquet was apparently moved from You Yangs Hall to downstairs. I missed Dave Langford's speech, as I rarely go to banquets.

ConCancun had their party in Bridge 2 at the Centra, and I assume had the same supply problems with the hotel.

I missed the Toronto in 2003 party in the Pacific Terrace Inn, and the cryonics and life extension party at the Holiday Inn, and never got to either of these hotels during my stay. The Beaker People Libation Front, with Nieuw Amsterdam '04, seemed to party in the bar every night.

Finally had an overpriced and poor pizza slice through lack of finding anything else to eat. At this time I was pretty disgusted with Melbourne, and swore never to go there again.

Back to the CFG suite for the last party.

Saturday 4 September 1999

Sat in the room typing until 10:30, on the basis few would be up (and at least I had breakfast food in the room).

The Monotreme reports 1703 attending members at Friday afternoon, including 47 children in tow and 39 day registrations. 1203 members had arrived and collected their badges. That was just about in line with real early predictions by the board. Doubtless it is true that more and better publicity would have increased this somewhat, but volunteer organisations can only do the things they can persuade someone to take on, and publicity never seems a strong talent in Australian fandom. There were fewer overseas fans and more Australian fans than I initially expected.

I had discovered the Full House and World Trade Deli were the easiest places to get a sandwich for lunch, and both were real nearby within the World Trade Centre. Didn't even have to go outside. This improved my generally low opinion of Melbourne food places greatly (I don't like most restaurants due to the noise level and style of food).

Fanzines received at the convention included GUFF winner Paul Kincaid's GUFFaw 2 and The Crooner Takes a Solo. Against all sanity, Beverley Hope, Rose Mitchell, Michael Jordan and David Armblaster produced Rosie's Tavern while preparing for the con, surely dedication way beyond the sensible. Steve Davies and Alison Scott provided a new Plokta. Dave Langford was thrusting Ansible 146 at anyone in his way. Eve and John Harvey, visiting Australia for the nth time, provided Raindrops on Roses. Terry Frost did not disappoint, providing his Mimezine Retrozine. I think I actually managed to send an email of comment to all, despite this being very untraditional behaviour when zines are handed out at cons.

The Other Awards ceremonies were in the You Yangs 1 room at 5 p.m., with a dinner break available before the Hugo ceremonies in the large theatre. That was something we promoted several years ago, as a way of keeping the Hugos at a reasonable length. I actually expected more people to scream about that decision. I hope other Worldcons will consider trying the same scheme.

The 1998 Golden Duck award for Excellence in children's Science Fiction.

Hal Clement Award for best Young Adult Book went to Larry Segreff for Alien Dreams (Baen Books). Middle Grades Award went to Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta for the Star Wars - Young Jedi Knights (Berkley). Picture Book Award for Best Children's Illustrator to Emma Chichester Clark for Noah and the Space Ark (by Laura Cecil, publisher Carolrhoda Books). Special Contribution Award to Garth Nix for promoting excellence in Australian Children's Science Fiction Literature.

The Ditmars, the Australian Science Fiction awards, went to Paul Collins for MUP Encyclopedia of Australian SF, Nick Stathopoulos for professional artwork (Nick then passed it along to Shaun Tan), Ian Gunn for fan artist, Bruce Gillespie for fanzine, Jack Dann and Janeen Webb for Dreaming Down Under, David Lake for The Truth About Weena as short fiction, Sean Williams for The Resurrected Man long fiction. Lewis Morley designed the awards.

I was really pleased to see the Chandler Award from the Australian SF Foundation go to Graham Stone, who has long contributed to recording the history of Australian science fiction, as well as keeping the Futurian Society of Sydney running.

Random House held a cocktail party for the winner of the George Turner Prize for SF&F, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Howqua 2. Publisher Karen Reid and others from Random House were present, along with a good contingent of their new authors. Although I haven't always agreed with their choice of works, Random House are strong supporters of local writers, and I hope their sales results encourage them to continue.

Everyone will know the Hugo results, but here they are again.

Chicon 2000 produced wonderfully elaborate invitations to the Hugo Losers' party at the Centra Hotel Bridge Room.

I was lucky enough to catch Keith Kato and get an invitation to his famous chili party in room 411 at All Seasons Grand. That was appropriately packed and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It has been years and years since I was last at one, probably at Chicon around 1982 or something.

Sunday 5 September 1999

Gregory Benford told me he had bought a pair of noise reducing headphones from Sony, and so had another writer. I had seen a pair in Melbourne, in the casino area, at The Sharper Image executive toy store and mentioned it. When he was visiting at Airlie Beach, I had shown him my pair. Jean and I have both used active noise reducing headphones ever since we discovered them about five years ago. We cannot praise them too highly, in terms of making long plane flights more comfortable by actively countering a lot of the low frequency noise.

Missed Judith Buckrich's 3 p.m. book launch of George Turner A Life, with Barry Jones, despite fully intending to be there, due to chasing the last of the party supplies for the ANZAPA party.

Had to find Beverley Hope in the bar, chase Keith Kato for keys, chase wine unsuccessfully (whoever heard of liquor stores being closed on Sunday - that doesn't happen where I came from, nor where I live now). I fell back on Plan C, and bought surplus CFG supplies.

I hope that the ANZAPA folks (and those of the FAPA and other apas I managed to catch) enjoyed themselves at the ANZAPA party. I certainly seemed to see lots of folks there, including John Newman, who made a special trip into town. I failed to get John Bangsund along, but that didn't really surprise me.

I hear Bucconeer '98, Chicon '00 and Millennium Philcon held a party in the Centra Bridge Room 2, but I didn't have a chance to check it.

The Past Worldcon Chairs' Party in Howqua Room 2 at 10 p.m. to midnight. I was given one of David Grigg's tickets if I recall right, and managed to escape from my party for a half hour to check it out. The waiters were a lot more attentive than at the ANZAPA party (I'd just left out the keys to the kingdom).

Monday 6 September 1999

Nine issues of The Monotreme newsletter appeared like clockwork at the con, followed by The Monochrome, a spoof newsletter.

The business meetings ratified the abolition of the North American bidding zones, which means all the strategies that worked for getting Aussiecon Three are now of no use. I think it may make "outside USA" bids a little harder, but equally a US bid can probably move by a year a lot easier. The meeting rejected two year in advance bidding, which I think is perhaps a pity, as three years is too long to maintain a push (although it worked for us in bidding, it was a bad scene for working together). Splitting the Dramatic Presentation into short and long forms was rejected. I understand George R R Martin, who certainly has lots of experience of Hollywood, told the meeting that Hollywood didn't care about the Hugo awards.

ConJose (the convention of the beast) won the 2002 Worldcon, with 666 of the 820 valid votes. There were 307 mail votes, 513 on site, says site selection administrator Mark Linneman. Con Jose will have as guests Vernor Vinge, David Cherry, Bjo and John Trimble, Ferdinand Feghoot and Tad Williams will be Toastmaster. The name ConJose rapidly mutated to its anagram CoJones in fan conversation.

An Aussiecon 4 bid for '07 appeared, chaired by Rose Mitchell, with committee members Greg Turkich, Danny Heap and Nick Price. Perry Middlemiss showed signs of instability by being listed as Advisor. This was in addition to hints from both Sydney and Perth about wanting to bid.

The Konica 7040 photocopier at the convention ran through 100,000 copies during the con. That's not too many pieces of paper, but if they weren't all convention newsletters (and I'd have thought only about 25,000 would have been), then what were the other pages? And how did Worldcons manage before photocopiers? I also thought we were going to enter the age of the paperless office soon (so my guess is that shares in photocopy companies will continue to do well).

Fans drank the hotel out of Cooper's Sparkling Ale. Nice when fans show good taste in beers. Must have been the Brits.

Fans complained about the lack of laundry facilities at the Centra. Indeed, most fancy hotels seem to think that everyone uses room service for cleaning their clothes.

Tuesday 7th September 1999

We finally went home. Ansett Flight 68, to Brisbane, then 268 from Brisbane to Mackay. There was a bit of shuffling around, with Kerry Frahm being even more helpful than usual, in driving me from the airport to pick up my car, and returning so we could await Leanne, and our visitors.

We had a late drive back to Airlie with Tom Whitmore and Marci Malinowitz. As predicted, the luggage situation was so critical we left one of our large bags with the Frahms to be collected later.

The only tourist treat was stopping when we reached a truck parking area, so Tom and Marci could finally get a decent look at the southern skies and the Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds and so on. There is little enough traffic on the main highway that you can get dark adapted fairly quickly.

Upon collecting my mail back home, I found an official schedule of my panel times. The letter was dated 15 August, but had not arrived when we left on 31 August. Couldn't read the postmark, but it was certainly too late to be of use.

Special thanks are due to various people who brought us reams of difficult to obtain US sized paper for an apa, namely Joe and Gay Haldeman, Weller, and Jack Heneghan and Elaine Normandy. Our FLAP readers thank you.

Wednesday 8 September 1999

We started off with a lazy day, and a walk to the Sailing Club and Abel Point Marina with Tom. The usual attractive but slightly rocky path via the beach was closed while the Coral Sea Resort did their renovations. What I thought was the alternate path seemed to be somewhat steep over the headland, but otherwise seemed to me unexceptional for a bush path.

We tried to organise a sail on some boat that afternoon, but having failed, headed for the Marina in the hope someone was willing to take on crew. Unfortunately Marci slipped and took a very heavy fall down the shortcut track to Able Point. Luckily there was some padding - she landed on top of me. (And yes, eventually she recovered, as did my ribs, but it took several weeks for the bruises to go for each of us.)

We attended the barbecue at Terraces Bar, which I always enjoy, and participated in Faulty's Trivia night. Tom and Marci won third prize, a meal at Hog's Breath cafe.

Thursday 9 September 1999

I took Tom and Marci to the local Wildlife Park, about 10 kilometres down the road. They were able to see the Barefoot Bushman sit on the crocodiles and stick his fingers in their mouth, just like on TV. They could also see and handle native animals up close. Since this park does let visitors handle young animals, this nearly always goes down well with overseas visitors.

Not surprisingly we tried Hog's Breath Cafe for dinner, with local cartoonist and fan Dr Craig Hilton able to catch up with us there. Jean got caught by what appeared to be a cashew in her salad, so we were all prepared to rush her off to Craig's office for medical intervention for allergy, but luckily that didn't prove necessary.

Friday 10 September

Tom, Marci and I booked on the catamaran Illusions for a day sail to beautiful Blue Pearl Bay on the north side of Hayman island. Marci hasn't able to move all that well after her fall, but the skipper took her around in the dinghy with a viewing box, so she was able to see the coral. We did a bunch of snorkle diving, and were really well and truly ready for the picnic lunch on board. On the return trip we sailed past Langford Reef, and Tom tried boom netting. I had a longer description of a trip on Illusions on my former web site at

We went to the newly opened Sushi Hi! for dinner. This was a great success, as Tom and Marci knew all the things to ask. We sat at the counter, said we would eat anything the chef thought suitable, and kept pouring sake for the chef. We had a great time (and so, we believe, did the chef).

Saturday 11 September 1999

I drove to Mackay Airport with Tom and Marci for their flight out. Naturally having driven that far, I took advantage of the shopping at Mackay, and got a PCMCIA ethernet card for my notebook computer (said card broke in December - grrr ... but was eventually replaced under warranty), and an Atlas of Australia on CD. I was also able to pick up our left behind bag from Leanne Frahm. To my regret, with eleven different cinemas to choose from, there didn't seem to be any film I thought worth viewing.

Sunday 12 September 1999

Canadian fans Hugh and Anne Gregory passed briefly through town. Hugh's SpaceBase (tm) card says he is a spaceflight historian, and runs an astronomy and space sciences education information service. They arrived early evening, and I took them on a walk through town, followed by dinner at the Whitsunday Sailing Club, that being a pretty typical pub style meal, good value, and usually with decent chefs.

Monday 13 September 1999

I collected Jack and Elaine at Shute Harbour Jetty around 4 in the afternoon, and they were a little surprised to see me. At Aussiecon we had failed to establish exactly when they were arriving, but the ferry schedule was such that it wasn't too hard to guess.

We all had dinner with Craig and Julia Hilton at Tequila Willies. I'm not exactly sure when Julia had managed to complete her drive up from Melbourne, but I'm pretty sure she made an impressively fast drive.

Tuesday 14 September 1999

Whitsunday All Over offer some of the best prices on island trips, albeit on somewhat smaller ships than FantaSea. We went to South Molle, where we discovered the National Park were doing a burnoff of vegetation, and the walking trails were closed. We were annoyed that no-one had informed the people booking the boat trips. Still, Jack was able to have his golf game in Australia, and it is hard to think of a more exotic location than one of the Whitsunday Islands. After the all you can eat lunch that is included in the boat trip, we took a walk up to Paddle Beach. From there you can see the path to Mid Molle, which you could walk to at low tide.

We had eaten so much for lunch that upon our return we had only take away giros from Cafe Mykonos for dinner, while Jean hid out at home.

Wednesday 15 September 1999

I was up for an outrigger canoe paddle at 5:45 a.m. No-one else would go with me, which actually did seem to be the standard pattern while visitors are here.

Later we all went to the National Park kiosk, and then further down the road on their circuit walk, after we finally found where the track started. Saw a large lizard that acted like it owned the place after we returned to the parking lot - probably got fed by tourists.

As I often do, I took our visitors to Bob Bredle's Barefoot Bushman Wildlife Park, where we first checked the snake show, where we saw experienced handlers getting all too close to venomous snakes. The young bush animals were more popular with visitors, as you get to handle a number of strange Australian animals. The crocodile show was next, Bob doing all manner of things with large snappy crocodiles. I wouldn't sit on the hindquarters of a 4 metre crocodile, and bang it on the head with a plastic bucket full of its food while talking with the audience. We checked the nocturnal house for various birds, and scratched the necks of dingos. I like the Wildlife Park, as it is good value for the $15 entry fees.

Back in town, we bought essential supplies for our boat trip. Case of beer, two boxes of wine, a six pack of cider, remains of a box of Lambrusco. You don't need much, as you can't drink before diving. We should have grabbed some champagne.

We dropped our small bags and party supplies at Kelly Dive, and headed around the corner to Mangrove Jack's for giant hamburgers and equally giant glasses of wine for an early dinner before sailing. Jean joined us after dinner.

We boarded the catamaran Pacific Star around 6:30 that evening. When all 18 or so passengers were on board, we motored across the Whitsunday Passage to Nari Inlet, a sheltered anchorage at Hook Island, for the evening.

Thursday 16 September 1999

We were up early to catch the tender to shore and visit the Aboriginal caves at Nari Inlet even before breakfast. Only an easy ten minute walk, although it is a bush track and uphill. Our guide told all manner of stories of the early days on the island. Good clear view of the cave paintings, which came out well in our photos.

After breakfast we motored to Whitehaven Beach on the far side of Whitsunday Island. While the intending divers did their resort dives, I walked barefoot the 1.2k to the lookout, to photograph the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.

Still no wind, so we had to motor again. This time to Luncheon Bay, where I snorkelled, while Jack did his first dive. It was a bit cold for me, and when I started to get cramp I retired to the boat to await the barbecue.

Friday 17 September 1999

We left early and motored seaward to Bait Reef, where there was lots of diving for the dive people. I went snorkelling without a wet suit, eventually got cramp and had to give up until I could warm up. This pattern repeated a lot. We sat at Bait Reef for a night dive. Great food, as usual.

We headed for Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island late at night, for our overnight stop.

Saturday 18 September 1999

Blue Pearl Bay is a wonderful site, except when low tide makes it harder to avoid the coral. It is then often easier to snorkel from the boat rather than the beach. We returned via Langford Reef, where the skipper demonstrated his prowess being towed on a surf board. Several others demonstrated they were not so familiar with the technique.

A full report of the trip appears at this site (now moved to

Sunday 19 September 1999

Jack and Elaine left on Sunday for further trips around Australia.

Friday 1 October 1999

A trip to nearby Proserpine with Julia, where we have an hour or so before Craig is through with his patients. I visited the newspaper office to find about printing books there, and Jean did a subsequent follow-up. I found Fred's Sheds storage prices were $30 a week, and wasn't sure books would store well there. Went to the local Toyota dealer to ask about 4WD vehicles, about which I knew less than zero.

Craig, Julia and I then headed for Mackay, where there was a GST seminar. I met with Leanne for a chat and a drink rather than raise my blood pressure about the GST. At the cinema complex at the Mount Pleasant Shopping Centre we noted prices were up to $11.50. Not much competition in town when both cinema complexes are owned by the same chain, I guess.

I enjoyed The Wild, Wild West, but I'd also enjoyed the long ago TV series, and the film retained much of the fun aspects of that series. The scope for steam age gadgets was wonderful.

Saturday 2 October 1999

Off to the 1999 XXXX Bowen Cup races, organised by the Bowen Turf Club, with Craig and Julia. Prizes for best dressed racegoer, as you might expect at a country meet, and a 6 race program. We were guests of a pharmaceutical company, and I must say that vastly enhances the facilities available at the grounds. I hadn't been to the races in decades, but did find it enjoyable. You can usually find someone to talk to when a bunch of medical people gather, or so I've found.

Tuesday 5 October 1999

jan howard finder arrives, the last of our Aussiecon guests, making his way around Australia by car. I show him the town, we went to KCs for lunch (a little overcooked I fear), and to Tequila Willies for dinner.

Wednesday 6 October 1999

Went off first thing in the morning paddelling an outrigger canoe. jan was the only fan to actually be willing to do that, despite being nearly the oldest fan through here.

jan and I went on the Illusions day trip to Blue Pearl Bay, which I've mentioned previously as a fine trip. jan wants Airlie to run a drop bear hunt, on his birthday, 2nd March. This would be Year 2k compliant, no endangered species used in the course of this hunt, vegemite paint balls are the weapons. Someday someone here will try it.

We went to the barbecue at the Terraces bar after our return, and we stayed for the trivia with Julia, where we win a half price Fawlty rainforest tour.

Thursday 7 October 1999

Julia and jan take Fawlty's rainforest tour, which really is different.

To the Boardwalk at Magnum's for hamburgers. If you figure this means we avoid cooking meals when we have guests, you are right. No point in having a town full of restaurants and cafes otherwise.

Friday 8 October 1999

jan leaves for Emerald, a considerable distance inland, in the morning. This time he declines to have a paddle first thing in the morning. I was shocked, shocked I say.

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Mobile Home Hunting

We went hunting a mobile home in November 1999, with a trip south along the coast to Rockhampton and some shopping, then inland via Mount Morgan to Biloela.

We set out around 8:30 a.m. on Friday 5th for the journey south. The Bruce Highway is relatively interesting as far as Mackay, as you pass through sugar cane country, plus some typical Australian bush, and various roads down to isolated beaches or resort areas. One of the more isolated petrol stations 60 kilometres along the highway, at Bloomsbury, is also considerably cheaper than at home or at Mackay, so we refueled when we spotted that. Soon after we came to the first traffic light, 148 kilometres along the road, we stopped at the Canelands shopping centre at Mackay to share one of their jumbo chicken salad rolls as an early lunch.

Sarina is the last hurrah of the Mackay area, thirty kilometres south of the city. After that the road to Rockhampton is one of the more boring stretches. Even with the 110 kph limit on parts, it still takes about four hours to reach Rockhampton, longer if you don't crowd the limit.

As usual, we stayed at the Ambassador Motor Inn on the Bruce Highway, at 353 Yaamba Road, just before the highway turns away from the business district. The Ambassador has the great advantage of being closest to the large shopping centre north of Rockhampton. It didn't hurt that the Ambassador was having a cut price deal on rooms, and had really decent reading lights.

The Rockhampton Shopping Fair is much to our liking as it includes a Sizzler's restaurant, and their "all you can eat" salad bar. I had the chicken burger, with salad bar, for $2 extra, and they had a Nottage Hill Chardonnay for $9.95 a bottle (pretty close to bottle shop prices), so a very full meal and wine for the two of us was about A$32.

I've heard from Lloyd Penney of the Sizzler chain disappearing in Canada, something he ascribes to poor service and high prices, but for us here, we just wish there were more of them around. We especially wish the nearest one were closer than 300 kilometres. The major reason we like them is that we can get a variety of "unadulterated" salad and fruit items. Although they have some premixed salads with weird ingredients, they mostly leave you to select what items you want in your salad. You wouldn't think such a simple item would be so hard to find, but it is.

We completed dinner in time for me to catch the 7:10 p.m. session of Sixth Sense at the cinema at the Shopping Fair. Bruce Willis in a very untypical, non-action role. However although the story wasn't idiot action, it also wasn't all that original (despite the attempt at a surprise ending), and did the usual Hollywood contrived job of trying for sentimentality. The $11.50 ticket price shocked me somewhat, and the prices for any munchies were truly astounding! Then I reflected that the film price was cheaper than a paperback book. Although to be honest, I think it more of a problem that books are just way too overpriced in this country. No wonder the major chain stores are doing well with their 30% off book racks (even if the range is limited to mass market ones).

Saturday 6th November 1999

We went shopping for all the clothes we had noted the previous afternoon, and some of them even fitted when inspected more closely. My attempts to find the various stationary items I wanted failed just as dismally as always. As I now refuse to accept substitutes that are not to my taste, I came away empty handed. I rather think I'll have to design and make the items I want myself, which is not the way I want the future to be.

We drove into the main shopping area in Rockhampton, shopping at Crazy Prices for a $2.35 paring knife and some stainless steel mixing bowls. Now that cutlery comes in shrink wrapped, impossible to open plastic and cardboard pods, it is almost impossible to view the edge of the blade. Thus you don't know if it is an annoyingly inferior single ground blade that will always cut to one side when you use it, or the easier to use double ground blade. I now stick to one particular cheap brand labelled Wiltshire that seems to get everything right, but I only seem to find them cheap in Crazy Prices or Silly Sollys or similar disorganised stores.

Naturally we returned to Sizzlers for all you can eat salad for lunch.

The inland road through to Mt Morgan was twisted and every now and then provided a great view of the countryside. Mt Morgan didn't initially promise much, except for historical material. We made a phone call to the people selling the motor home, to say we had reached Mt Morgan and would see them in an hour or so.

Then we made the mistake of going down to the railway station to look at historic mining trains. There was a friendly little gang of railway enthusiasts, busy polishing brass and doing things with geared wheels. They told us there were lots of other enthusiasts from overseas and interstate visiting in Rockhampton and they were attending on Sunday, and the steam train would be running. That sounded like fun, so after chatting for a time we made our excuses and finally continued towards Biloela.

We phoned again when we finally reached Biloela, and got guided to the motor home we wanted to inspect.

I wish I could say that it looked like a modern, attractive, streamlined Winnebago, but it didn't. It looked like someone had stuck an old fashioned square caravan, complete with an awning on one side, on top of the chassis of a large, tall four wheel drive Toyota Hino truck.

The truck had been fitted with over 500 litres of long range fuel tanks, giving it a 2000 kilometre range. It had 600 litres of water tanks, for desert driving. It had a hand winch for lowering the heavy spare tyres from on top. It had a built in ladder for reaching the top. There were storage racks on top, two new spare tyres, and four 64 watt shade tolerant Canon solar cells. There were numerous key locked doors low on the body hiding lots of storage space, a 2.3 kVA Onan generator, gas bottles for the stove, and there was space for spare jerrycans of generator fuel.

As well as the two truck batteries for the 24 volt system, there were four home power batteries, an auxiliary charging regulator, and a 350 watt Statronics sine wave inverter. The Heron reverse cycle air conditioner in the living area really would be better run off mains power.

Another ladder, extending from under the body, was for entering the living quarters ... and you needed the ladder to reach the screen door.

Inside closest to the cab were two bunks with reading lights, privacy curtains, and book racks, while at the back was a double bed, next to the Morflo hot water system shower and toilet. The stove was a four burner gas SMEV marine version, while the 150 litre fridge and freezer ran off the solar cells.

As the interior had been built originally for a couple and their two children, some items didn't suit our need for two people each with their own office. The dinette was a very snug fit for four very thin people, and we didn't think we could manage with the existing width table in place there.

The most impressive sight was the absolute dedication to making use of all possible space for storage. In our long search for a suitable vehicle, we had visited lots of motor homes at different Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia rallies, but I had never seen a motorhome with storage space as organised as in this home built model. Nor was the space just "space". It was done as drawers, with good quality glide supports, and all the doors latched closed with recessed marine safety catches. The kitchen area even had pull out pantry shelves, and the shelves were spaced to match common foodstuff boxes.

We came away very impressed, but the price was somewhat above our hoped for range. The main problem however was we were really intimidated by the sheer size of the vehicle. We went away to consider the matter.

There were a few sites to see around town, so we booked into the Apollo Motel, close to town at 36 Gladstone Road, Biloela. The motel restaurant sounded a little high end, and were expecting a large party later. Our attempts at an evening meal from the services club didn't work, so we dropped in on Aussie pizza. Unfortunately, the mozzies ate us! The motel didn't have good reading lights, but we had brought our own.

Sunday 7th November 1999

We encountered some bad roads on the way to the viewing point for the Callide power station, mine, and later the dam, about 15 km out of town on the Gladstone Road. Beside being steep, it was sticky with mud, and the tyres ended up with gravel embedded all over the mud. However the various views made up for the road. It was the wrong day for the power station tour, or to view the Cultures Coming Closer Museum, containing aboriginal material as well as power generation information.

Back in Biloela we had a quick look at The Silo (Simulated Interactive Learning Opportunities) in Exhibition Avenue, the Primary Industries Exhibition tourist site. It has a whole heap of interactive exhibits, mostly aimed at school children, covering coal mining, electricity generation, redclaw aquaculture, stud cattle, ostrich farming, dairy farming and a range of other country industries.

We drove back towards Mount Morgan and Rockhampton, stopping at Mt Scoria, the musical mountain. This tower of scoriacious basalt rises 150 metres, and emits a musical note in the wind. It is the only example of this formation in the southern hemisphere (there is one in Sicily and another off the coast of Scotland).

Mount Morgan is on the Dee River, a small former mining town in hill country towards the coast, now attracting tourists with historic relics. Gold was discovered here in 1882, and copper mining followed. Open cut mining commenced in 1934, and continued until 1984, followed by treating the tailings until 1990, a total of 108 years of mining operations. The town boasts the oldest high school in the state, and a fine array of mining railway memorabilia, as well as man made caves, dinosaur footprints, bentwing bats, and mine tours. There is an historical museum.

Every Sunday the Railway Historical Society at Mount Morgan run their Hunslett steam engine, and it is great fun. Built at Hunslett in Leeds, it began service at the mine in 1904, and worked until 1947. It sat at the Rotary playground at the dam until it was restored starting in 1995. We got a Rover ticket, good for lots of trips along the three kilometers of remaining track. The fettler's trolley is a two stroke engine driven open trolley, very noisy and primitive. The 2000 Class railmotor was built in Brisbane in 1961, and donated in 1989. These two operate Monday to Saturday. On the first Saturday of the month all three trains run, and there is a craft markets. Details from (07) 4938 2312 or mail dmrrmm at cqnet com au

We finally returned to Rockhampton, agonised over whether we could fit in a Sizzler lunch at 2:30, and headed off towards Mackay instead. Refueled at Camila, ran into rain, and ran out of time.

Stayed at Gorries Motel, 186 Nebo Road, on the outskirts of Mackay, which had a really decent reading light, and was cheap as well. Domino pizza for dinner, despite the rain.

Next day we went shopping, and managed to organise to get new mobile phones, since the analog system was being closed down at the end of the year. That was handy timing. We later discovered that the government had (as usual) lied about when the system would shut down, lied about when it would be replaced, and lied about the quality of the CDMA replacement phones. Apart from that, it worked like most mobile phones out in the country, which means not real well once you got away from the towns.

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Interact + PC IT show

Thanks to David Evans, Jean and I had free tickets to the computer show and multimedia festival at the exhibition centre (Jeff's Shed) across the river from the Centra hotel. Although it was a pretty small show, it had some handy stuff on web commerce, and a lot of people pressing pamphlets on us, despite us saying it wouldn't be of use.

AAPT offer cheap phone and internet rates, but have no point of presence closer than 1100 kilometres. Nope! Freeup Down Under provide royalty free music (at a charge) for any purpose. Not my style.

Lots of people offered e-commerce, mostly without detailing precisely how or why their particular company was better than any of the others. [2005 - I checked links, and most links are dead] were very vague but gave some reference sites. QSI Payment Technologies are targeting banks formerly at via an interactive media design company. in Adelaide. The most detailed was with their text about online processing. ISP, a subsidiary of AAPT, had a number of business web services advertised. We have been using for our own sites. One in Queensland was that says it is affordable.


Ian Semmel wrote to the newspaper complaining about the dishonesty of the Republican questions, and says it should be phrased.

"Should the next head of State be chosen by the British Parliament, the Australian Parliament or the Australian people?"

Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura showed why former pro wrestlers make better politicians. Not afraid to speak his mind, a report in Playboy says he thinks organised religion was a sham and "a crutch for weak-minded people", and that fat people could not "push away from the table". Wants to regulate illegal drugs, and blamed organised religion for the unpopularity of legalised prostitution. He also thought President John F Kennedy was killed by the US military industrial complex because he was planning to withdraw from Vietnam.

Intel Bigger, Faster, Better?

Intel, whose CPU chips are the "brains" in three quarters of all home and business computers, have been producing bigger and faster CPUs for decades. Given their chips need to be compatible with obsolete DOS and Windows programs, Intel do a very good job. Power mad users should be aware however that until recently Intel CPUs were neither the first to appear in any speed, nor the fastest available at the time (Unix systems tended to use faster chips, and change higher prices for them - only this year have Intel chips overtaken the RISC chips.)

Intel have to keep selling you faster chips. However there are only a very few computer areas that actually need them. Real time video presentations, 3D rendering, and computer games. Windows doesn't need much more speed as it doesn't really push present CPUs. Indeed, you can still run Windows 98 on a mid-level 486 CPU, albeit in a somewhat leisurely manner. Windows is mostly slow because its applications are large; you get more improvement out of increasing memory, and faster peripherals, than you do out of CPU speedups.

You don't need more power at home for the Internet, as the real slowdown is the terrible state of most Australian phone lines. With fewer than 20% of Australians having cable TV access (another technology that simply didn't make any sense here), and only a handful of them having a cable modem, most Internet users here could surf at about the same speed with a 386, Windows 3.11 and the Opera browser. I keep seeing comments in fanzines from people who say they can't get on the web because they only have a 486. This sort of crap really does irritate me. You could browse the web with a 286 and a light weight office plus browser package like the new US$50 incantation of Geoworks, called New Deal, from If you really, really had to, you could run an original, floppy disk only IBM PC or XT, circa 1982, put NetTamer on it, and do email and text web pages (lots of people did that with Hewlett Packard 200LX palmtop computers).

Internet Village Idiot

Pressured by new Australian government Broadcasting Services (Online Services) Amendment Act laws requiring a code of conduct, and empowering the Australian Broadcasting Authority to clean up the Internet, the Internet Industry Association (IIA) wrote a code calling upon ISP users to pay to censor their own computers. This is the fifth attempt by the IIA at writing a code, all the others being rejected by those ISPs who are the members of the IIA. The draft code comments expired on 20 September 1999, and calls upon ISPs to provide client side software.

What they think they can do about operating systems that don't support filters (like the ones in mobile phones) seems a mystery to me, and probably to them.

ISPs must ensure subscribers are aged over 18, which would tend to eliminate anonymous subscribers, and force everyone to use credit cards.

It is interesting that our government thinks all ISPs must be members of the IIA, and is forcing ISPs to join IIA (against the wishes of many of the smaller ones). At the same time, the same government banned compulsory membership of student unions for students (at most universities here, the student union provides the infrastructure for the sports, bar and often cafeteria facilities, amongst other student services).

In addition, the Federal government is demanding that ISPs join the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), which is actually set up as a private company, and the government will fine any ISP that does not join.

Meanwhile, a newspaper article by Paul Budde claims the compliance cost for the government internet censorship schemes would be in the order of $150 million, while many remote area ISPs would not be able to sustain the likely costs. Another article by Amanda Hodge claims Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, says the censorship laws are the world's most draconian.

I hope every web site in Australia moves their main servers offshore, and runs remotely.

Mobile Phones

Telstra are encouraging their analog mobile phone users to switch to digital, since the analog system is being dropped at the end of 1999. Well, to be accurate, there is a ten year old government undertaking to the digital GSM mobile phone industry (all three of them) to drop analog by the end of 1999, but it appears that in some country areas, analog will remain for another six months or so.

Why would anyone care which technology their phone uses? Digital GSM phones are used worldwide (except in USA and Japan) and can (mostly) be used to roam worldwide. If you ignore (as most cellular phone companies do) they way they interfer with hearing aids, heart pacemakers, and double the incidence of cancer in sensitive mice, GSM digital isn't too bad. Naturally the multi-billion dollar mobile phone industry deny any problems, and even funded a one million dollar study (over five years) to support their claims. That seems fair, they also fund workshops to tell mobile phone executives how to treat enquiries about phone safety. But let us ignore that (sort of like the tobacco industry).

GSM is very well suited to densely populated city areas, as you can puts lots of phone cells close together to handle large numbers of calls, and you can decrease the range of each cell so as to add more and more cells and thus more users. This is what is being done now around the Sydney Olympic Games area.

Unfortunately, if you want good range over flat country or out to sea, digital phones suck. This becomes very noticeable in areas like here, where everyone packs their phone when they go sailing offshore. No boat skipper, and no farmer on flat land, wants to give up their analog.

Even more unfortunately, the just released CDMA phones simply don't have any base stations out here as yet. Nor are they expected to have any, except in big cities, until well after the analog network is due to close down. There is also no competition. Only Telstra is adding CDMA cells (yes, I know that Hutchison have released Orange, and that is CDMA, but that is only in the cities - in country areas they will use Telstra facilities for roaming).

Current CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) models were invented by Qualcomm, promoted by Irwin Jacobs, their chief executive and co-founder. Technically they look pretty good (albeit pretty complex) but the reality is that the rest of the world (except the USA) is already using GSM. Further, most mobile phones are used in city areas, where the range advantage of analog or CDMA is not a factor (indeed, the long range of analog is a positive disadvantage in city areas).

Appropriate GSM phones will handle data calls, albeit at a very slow 9600 bps. Some CDMA phones have data capability, currently at 14,400 bps, but there is no way for me to test this, as CDMA only exists in the cities. A better data capability for CDMA is said to be only a few years away, and potentially much faster than the GSM version.

There are said to be 100 million Internet users in the world, and increasing rapidly. There are said to be 400 million mobile phone users in the world, increasing even more rapidly. The next generation of mobile phone will include (very slow) Internet access, and a small display for web surfing, using a new protocol called WAP. You have been able to get early, and expensive, phones that can handle simple web pages for the past two or three years from Nokia, Philips and others. However they will soon be included in the "standard" style of phone.

Yet what direction are web sites going? Elaborate, multimedia productions, javascript, giant downloads, special add-ons, and ever slower to load. Many use elaborate tricks to do redirections or have large Java driven first pages and these rather often seem to me to lead to pages that simply can't be viewed. In the future, if web sites don't pay attention to what sort of browser people are using, and adapt to browsers in mobile phones, they will be unviewable to most potential users, rather than just to some of us.

Personalisation of web sites to suit the user rather than the designer doesn't seem to be much of an issue to anyone so far. However when more people are using slow, limited display mobile phones to access their email, and do the odd web search, such users will not be impressed by graphics intensive sites, especially if they have virtually no content. I'd think that any business oriented web designer these days should be looking at detecting what sort of browser is being used, and changing the nature of the pages they generate to suit the browser, and its likely data rate and display capabilities.

As a tourist or traveller, I'd expect to be able to pull out my phone while approaching a small town, get a short summary of tourist facilities, get a list of the hotels and motels, with a summary of their facilities, the reservations number, and whether they are full. I'd expect to be able to phone and make my booking, and I'd want all of that to take less than five minutes, and preferably less than two minutes (at the telephone data rate of 9600 bps). Two minutes theoretically gives you at most 100k, five minutes at most 250k, but less than half that is a more realistic estimate. You don't have the bandwidth to waste on pretty pictures or fancy fixed width pages that need scrolling.

It isn't just phone users. Brian Maguire, a blind activist, tried to enter the ballot to buy Olympic tickets, but there was a long application form to fill in. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission ruled that Games organisers had discriminated by not giving Maguire the opportunity to make a fully informed choice on tickets. Blind from birth, Maguire runs Braille Ways from home, was top of his state in two Higher School Certificate subjects, and hopes to complete his Masters degree at Macquarie University. He was active in a campaign against Microsoft over Internet programs that could not be used by blind people. In the USA, it appears that government funded sites have to meet certain access rules. AOL have even been sued in the USA, land of the law suit, for excluding blind users from using their service.

What other things might you do with your phone?

The smallest web server in the world (formerly at is a Pic processor about an inch square, costing less than a dollar each in quantity. No reason not to add them to all our household equipment, control them from a web browser, and use your phone as the controller.

Nokia have a "dial a Coke" vending machine, where you control your choice of beverage by using your mobile phone, with charges going via your phone account. There is an automatic car wash in Helsinki that works the same way. Such items will become more and more common, especially as phone companies have considerable experience at billing very small changes (cents even) and collecting such charges economically. It will be too late for the banks and their "smart cards" if the phone companies get their act together first.

Satellite Phones

I keep getting told that I can get satellite phones that will keep me in contact while travelling anywhere. Whenever I actually look into these these products, I seem to find problems rather than solutions, and obscene phone bills, rather than cheap, reliable communications.

There are a bunch of major new entries in "go anywhere" phones, but the initial efforts are not real encouraging. Iridium filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 1999. At last report, no-one had rescued them, and they were about to down their satellites. Two weeks later ICO Global Communications also filed. ICO need to raise at least US$1.6 billion. This doesn't mean facilities aren't available, but long term reliable service may be something else.

British Telecom offer a 4 kg Satelan service, with a folding antenna and rechargeable battery powered switching pack. It is similar in capability to the Immarsat version, and can handle 64Kbps ISDN and group 4 fax, as well as voice. Pricing would be around $10 a minute in Australia for data, about $2.50 for voice.

Vodaphone say they will have a satellite service, at lower costs. It is due out now, and I even have a fancy pamphlet they mailed me, touchingly free of any actual content.

Internet Stock Prices

The 17 largest Internet stocks in the USA were worth US$47 billion in September 1998. Then they started really jumping, reaching US$495 billion by April 1999. By August they were down again to US$267 billion. The market turnover in this bubble is several times the nominal value. This is just outright gambling, not investing. This stuff is the South Pacific Bubble or Tulip Fever all over again. Except for dividends (which many internet companies haven't paid), the stock market is a zero sum game, with all gains coming from getting new investors to put their money in it and keep stocks riding high. If you run out of new investors, things crash. At some point, these companies will have to actually produce real profits that match their real prices, or people won't continue to pour money in.


Why we like having a small UPS on our computers.

We lost power on

Power outages typically begin when a tree branch contacts a line. This happens here all the time, because the power lines go through a National Park. Lots of current flows through the branch, circuit breakers open after a few hundred milliseconds, the local neighbourhood circuit breaker opens, and that local area is off the grid until someone fixes thing. Power in the rest of the area returns right away, once the short is gone.

Political Doubts

The untimely death in June of Screaming Lord Sutch, founder of the Official Monster Raving Looney Party, has left such a void that a joint leadership was required to fill his shoes. Former deputy leader Alan Hope is joined by Mandu, a four year old ginger tom cat, voted in at the party's 19th annual conference.

Movie Monsters

Several children in Australia are reported in newspapers to have required psychiatric care following viewing a recent horror film during a sleepover at the home of other children. One ten year old Melbourne girl was treated for two weeks. Near Harrowgate, North Yorkshire, Ashley Martin, age 13, was stabbed 18 times and left for dead by Daniel Gill, age 14, and Robert Fuller, age 15, hours after they watched the horror film Scream. The children were found guilty of attempted murder.


At Aussiecon Three, GUFF winner Paul Kincaid gave me a copy of GUFFaw 2, and while egoscanning, I was surprised to find myself mentioned. It was back in 1978, when the candidates for GUFF for 1979 were John Foyster, John Alderson, and myself. I'd been to the UK, briefly, in 1976, on a round the world airline ticket. Paul mentioned I published an issue of my fanzine Gegenschein asking fans not to vote for me. At the time I felt strongly that anyone who could afford to make the trip should do so on their own resources. I had been on two trips, one to Torcon to bid for the first Aussiecon, and a long trip to the USA in 1976 with a stopover in the UK.

However circumstances do change, and Jean and I are now standing for GUFF for 2001. This time around we are asking fans to vote for us.

New Year's Eve

We had fireworks on Saturday 11 September for the Whitsunday Fun Race, but naturally New Year's Eve was much more grand. The prospect of paying vast sums to go to an overcrowded restaurant didn't appeal to us, so we stayed home and watched TV from around the world. I wandered around to the Terraces bar around 7 p.m. to see what was happening. They were closing at 8:30 so they could go partying. There were a nice bunch of fireworks for the children set off from the beach at 9 p.m. I decided I could indulge myself at New Year, and as well as champagne, I had a packet of chips (well, if you haven't had any all year, they might be a treat). I had also persuaded Jean to get me a one kilogram packet of aniseed jelly beans from Amway. Of course, I couldn't have very many at one sitting, or my tongue would turn black (and fall off).

We viewed ceremonies from New Zealand at 9 p.m. Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart, on daylight saving time, were on at 11 p.m. I was very impressed with the Sydney fireworks, and liked the local touches like putting the word "Eternity" up in lights on the Harbour Bridge, and the rainbow effects. Aboriginal ceremonies from Uluru came on at 12:30, including a stunning dance number, and so on. The aboriginals attending unfortunately mostly showed the effects of a thousand generations of breeding for efficient food usage, and suddenly being provided unlimited food by Western cultivation methods. Not, I admit, unlike the effects on many of the rest of us. An SF future of trim, taut, humans bodies seems unlikely without genetic engineering.

Over the following day we were able to view vast numbers of stunning fireworks displays. Initial photos of many of the displays were generally remarkably poor, perhaps reflecting poor transmission techniques or conversion from some barely acceptable TV format such as NTSC. Later replays from many areas were much superior, with better definition and much better colour. I was impressed by the Eiffel Tower, especially given the terrible weather lashing Paris just before. The release of doves at Bethlehem, along with the fireworks, was one of the more stupid actions, as birds went every direction in panic.

Sydney Weekend

I was scheduled to complete my 24 month course of a trial drug, carvidilol, in January, and the hospital in Sydney wanted me back so they could get their final set of readings, and reduce the dose in a controlled manner in case there were any side effects from stopping. So in August I'd booked a January Qantas flight using frequent flyer points, but the available seats enforced a flight down on Thursday, and a Monday return. I figured I could probably tolerate a weekend in Sydney.

I was due out of Proserpine slightly after midday, on probably the only flight of the day. A long stopover in Brisbane was scheduled, as some of the flight departure times had changed. When I collected the tickets at Proserpine, I asked if they could get me on an earlier flight from Brisbane, and by that time, many of the previously booked seats were available, so I didn't have many delays, and landed in Sydney around 5 p.m. I was real pleased with Qantas about this.

The original schedule landed me in Sydney after 9 p.m. Considering my motel at Parramatta closes its desk (and its doors!) at 10 p.m. I wasn't at all sure I could reach the motel before it closed. I'd have certainly needed to take a $50 taxi ride to have any chance. I also dropped my plans to take a vast quantity of parcels to mail (cheaper) from Sydney, and took only a carry-on bag, to avoid waiting for baggage to be unloaded.

My medical appointments near Penrith occupied Friday morning. I couldn't catch Shayne McCormack at the Phantasia bookshop in Penrith, as it was her day off. Shopping and financial appointments occupied the afternoon, but I was able to contact Graham Stone and take him to dinner. John Telek from the old Applix group offered a place to crash for Saturday and Sunday, and took me to visit Andrew and Kathy Morton, who still do Applix meetings once a month on Saturday (even if it is more a Linux meeting these days). On Sunday John took me on a drive through some of the south coast area, and it was interesting seeing how many places had changed since I was last there.

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Book Reviews

The Book of Revelation by Rory Barnes and Damien Broderick

Voyager (Harper Collins), August 1999, 389pp, A$14.95 ISBN 073226474X

Rosa `Flake' Rosch's postmodern biography of her father, UFO cultist and abductee, from his weird youth to weirder still future, with sketches of other equally weird relatives and pseudo-relatives, rushing back and forth from the 1970's to 2005. Some fine pieces of situational humour here, plotted by the Goon Show, and I'm sure they were ingesting recreational chemicals at times.

Moonseed by Stephen Baxter

Voyager (Harper Collins), Oct 1999, 534pp, PB A$15.95 ISBN 0006498132

Reprinted without resetting from the trade paperback.

Set in the near future, geologist Henry Meacher starts studying a sample of moondust, from the samples Apollo brought back. A few grains are lost, and starts turning lava in Scotland into dust. And there is no stopping it, as more and more land is devoured. Then suddenly evidence that the same thing happened elsewhere in the solar system. With little clue to the origins of the destructive nanotechnology, a dangerous return to the moon is the only chance to discover why the moon wasn't entirely consumed, and what may be stopping the moonseed.

Heaven's Reach by David Brin

Bantam, May 1999, 557pp, A$15.95 US$6.99

Final book in the second Uplift Trilogy, this follows the dolphin crewed Streaker as it encounters mysteries while still eluding pursuit. It also follows some of the inhabitants of Jijo out into the galaxy.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't really appreciate the novel. It felt overlong, and even boring in places. I couldn't remember, and didn't care about the characters from the previous novel (which as I recall I didn't manage to finish reading). I know Brin is a good writer, and he usually writes the sort of things I enjoy, but I just didn't get into this second series.

Moon Shots edited by Peter Crowther

DAW 1125, July 1999, 312pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0886778484

Sixteen original stories on the theme of the moon, from a variety of excellent modern authors. A lot of them were more along the times of charming, well written mood pieces, but there were a few that I'd consider SF. Overall, not bad at all on quality of writing, but somewhat disappointing if you wanted SF.

Dreaming Down-Under Book One, edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb

Voyager (Harper Collins), Sept 1999, 442pp, PB A$14.95 ISBN 0732264049

Starts off well, with a stunning and appropriate cover by the very talented Sydney artist Nick Stathopoulos. A typical preface by Harlan Ellison, reminiscing on his visit to Australia in 1983, and at the very end indicating voices if you would but listen.

The editorial started by recalling Ellison's ground breaking Dangerous Visions anthologies, and his comments at the Powerhouse Museum in 1996, in which he said this was the golden age of Australian SF. They talked of the history of SF in Australia, and the way the information age is opening up the world to Australian authors. Then came the big promise. "We asked the best authors working in the field to write the story they wanted to be remembered for."

Jack Dann has been writing excellent, literate fiction for decades, and editing for just as long. Janeen Webb has also long been involved in academic criticism of SF. The authors in the book are mostly well known, and are among the best in Australia.

So why was I so disappointed with this collection of Australian SF? I think it is because, after the introduction, many of the works did not live up to the promise. In some cases I do not believe the authors could have regarded them as defining stories. As a result, I'll doubtless be much more cautious about accepting, or even reading, the next volume. And I am really sorry that this is my reaction.

The Dragon in Lyonesse by Gordon R Dickson

Tor, August 1999, 505pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812562712

Another of Gordy's charming fantasies about Jim Eckert, the knight who is also a dragon. This time he and his friends the good knight Sir Brian, Dafydd the archer, and the castle Hobgoblin all travel to Lyonesse, the land beneath the sea, where all of King Arthur's knights were reunited. The land is threatened by the Dark Forces, acting via a mercenary army, and aided by the dark witch Morgan le Fay. As usual, it is up to Jim to fix the problem. Given that I don't like fantasy, I'm surprised that I find these such an easy read.

This Alien Shore by C S Friedman

DAW, July 1999, 564pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0886777992

A wonderfully plot twisted space opera. FTL flight mutates humans, and colonies are full of mutated humans. One colony devises a FTL method that only they can pilot. On Earth corporations battle each other, and plot secret projects. Jamisa is an experiment, who escapes into the larger galaxy following a corporate raid. Meanwhile, pilots are being killed in the void, and it appears computer hackers are to blame. Great fun.

Midnight Falcon by David Gemmell

Corgi (Random House), March 2000, 528pp, A$15.95 E#5.99, ISBN 0552142573

Bastard child of the leader in Sword in the Storm grows up sociopathic, learns to be a gladiator and a killer. Concludes the story. I read both these novels carefully, and they are skillfully written, but have all the merit of a typical computer game. I don't think they are suitable reading matter for human beings.

The Road to Mars by Eric Idle

Pantheon, 1999, 309pp, US$24 ISBN 037540340X

Cross the old Road movies with Monty Python (Idle was part of the Flying Circus), stir in a robot trying to understand humour, and a pair of unfunny comedians looking for work. Nothing much here for SF fans (especially in the bits where "the vacuum of space will rush in" etc on page 108).

Dangerous Vegetables created by Keith Laumer

Baen, Dec 1998, 378pp, US$5.99, ISBN 0671577816

Twenty two short stories, mostly jokes about dangerous vegetables. They range from 1939 John Taine, to 1998, with most from the '50s and '60s. Laumer died around 1992, so it has taken a long time for this collection, introduced by Ben Bova, to appear. To be honest, it is pretty slight, but sometimes amusing.

Nimisha's Ship by Anne McCaffrey

Corgi (Random House), 1999, November 448p, A$15.95, ISBN 0552146285

Smart and talented heiress of a First Family grows to become a space craft designer, and accidentally goes missing down a wormhole with a new ship. She conveniently finds a habitable new planet, with other stranded ships on it, and an alien species. Some exceedingly convenient things happen, and everyone lives happily ever after, leaving plenty of space for several sequels if needed. Still, it reads somewhat better than the Hive stories, or the Freedom series.

Bloom by Will McCarthy

DelRey, Sept 1998, 310pp, TPB US$23.95

Bloom has infected all the inner planets, converting all organic and many inorganic materials into more bloom. Only in the cold outer solar system can humans exist, and even there every spoor of bloom encountered must be neutralised at once. An expedition leaves Ganymede to try to find whether any sort of non-bloom life still exists in the inner system, but there are those who do not want it to find anything, or who suspect its real purpose.

Bloom is the background, but much of the story concerns the human reactions of a handful of people to close proximity and continuous danger. In some respects it has elements in common with Linda Nagata's Vast, another interesting tale.

Vast by Linda Nagata

Bantam, August 1998, 403pp, US$5.99 ISBN 0553576305

Sequel to Deception Well, set aboard Null Boundary, a starship already thousands of years old, and capable of restoring the bodies of its crew by nanotechnology from a substrate. Four possibly still human survivors are bound for the realm of the Chenzeme, whose killer ships attack all nearby life in the galaxy. A wonderful novel for the hard SF fan.

Destiny's Road by Larry Niven

Tor, May 1998, 432pp, US$6.99

2730 A.D. on planet Destiny, site of the second human attempt at interstellar colonisation. The fusion drives of Cavorite have created a Road across the planet. However in Spiral Town, farming and trading are a way of life, as the settler gadgets gradually fail. Farm boy Jeremy Blocher sets out on the road, and over the decades gradually learns the nature of the empire of the road caravans. An interesting tale well told, with myriad details.

In The Company of Mind by Steven Piziks

Baen, Nov 1998, 339pp, US$6.99

Poor superman, nano enhanced, genetically perfect, but only because his insane industrialist father is determined to force him to be a perfect child. To escape the torment, Lance escapes into multiple personalities, unknown to himself. However eventually he has to face his father, his equally trapped mother, and his own nature. Oedipus rides again, but an interesting tale for all that.

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

Doubleday (Random House), Nov 1999, 317pp, A$36.95 ISBN 0385409958

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

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

Liquid Gold by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Bantam (Random House), Sept 1999, 389pp, A$15.95

Sequel to Splashdance Silver by Hobart born winner of 1998 George Turner Prize. Humourous fantasy based more in classical Greek tales, the Underworld, and so on, with very strong female characters.

Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg

Voyager (Harper Colins), Oct 1999, 352pp, $15.95, ISBN 0006483941

Eleven new stories by well known fantasy authors, says the introduction. Except it isn't eleven stories, it is five stories, taken from the original (and much better value) trade paperback. I expect in the fullness of time a second and perhaps third paperback volume will appear. If you are interested, find a copy of the trade paperback.

Except for the forgettable Terry Pratchett, I thought them pretty unreadable, but I never have liked fantasy, not even good fantasy. The others were Anne McCaffrey, George RR Martin, Tad Williams and Robert Jordan.

Far Horizons edited by Robert Silverberg

Avon Eos, June 1999, 482pp, US$27.50 ISBN 0380976307

Silverberg asked a bunch of mostly hard science fiction writers to write on an aspect of their universe they hadn't been able to cover in the original book or sequence of books. The book is dedicated to Heinlein, Asimov and Campbell, which gives a good idea of where it is coming from.

The authors are Ursula K Le Guin (Ekumen), Joe Haldeman (Forever War), Orson Scott Card (Ender), David Brin (Uplift), Robert Silverberg (Roma Eterna), Dan Simmons (Hyperion), Nancy Kress (Sleepless), Frederik Pohl (Heechee), Gregory Benford (Galactic Center), Anne McCaffrey (Ship Who Sang), Greg Bear (The Way).

I think this was one of the most readable and entertaining collections I've ever had the pleasure of reading, although I do believe you would need to be familiar with the original works in which worlds they are set. Highly recommended.

Inherit the Earth by Brian Stableford

Tor, July 1999, 320pp, US$6.99 ISBN 081258429

After the biowars had hauled the population down from tens of billions to only a few billion, and Conrad Helier's artificial wombs and biotech had provided a way for the human race to recover from the sterility bugs, nanotech let everyone live beyond a hundred years. Most were confident that, if you could keep alive a little longer, it might extend your lifespan to almost immortality.

Damon Hart was Conrad Helier's son, although born many years after Conrad died, and not interested in acknowledging his link. A terrorist group targets some of Conrad's old team, kidnapping, and accusing them of war crimes. Meanwhile, other powerful organisations have their own agenda, and this includes forcing the dead Conrad Helier to come forward. Damon rapidly finds himself well beyond his ability in a game of cat and mouse with Interpol, with the terrorist group, with Conrad's hidden organisation, and with the most powerful corporations on a post capitalist Earth.

Stableford is generally a fine writer, and he does an excellent job on this novel, based on a story in Analog.

This novel appears under the editorial imprint of David G Hartwell, and nothing he has had a hand in has ever disappointed me as top flight science fiction.

Dark Tide 1 - Onslaught by Michael A Stackpole

Arrow (Random House), March 2000, 292pp, A$15.95 ISBN 0099409933

Stackpole has done a number of other Star Wars novels, and this new series The New Jedi Order is set 25 years after the original film. Stackpole is a competent writer, doing a good enough job for this sort of book.

This means greater and greater threats, more and more unlikely coincidents, more and more powerful invaders, all of whom conveniently like one on one duelling with stray Jedi Knights. There is no consideration of the society in which the events are set, except for a few political personages. Likewise no consideration of the economics of war. These Star Wars books have nothing to do with science fiction, and in my opinion are stuffing up the entire market for well written SF. A Gresham's Law of writing; bad writing drives out good.

The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume Two, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy C Byrne

HarperCollins, 1998, 443pp, A$14.95

Thirteen stories, six originally published in Eidolon magazine by the same editors. There is a handy introduction to each author, and a brief but helpful summary of the development of Australian SF over the past few years.

The opening story is Greg Egan's Reasons to be Cheerful from Interzone, so the collection starts well. This provides plausible reasons for the protagonist to need to control his own moods, and the techniques by which this happens, to bootstrap his own personality. A very nasty, thoughtful story, just as we have come to expect from Egan.

I thought some stories were more mood or horror pieces, but overall it gives a very reasonable picture of Australian authors in that year.

Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson

Tor, July 1999, 372pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812566629

In 1912, Europe disappears, replaced by an equivalent land from an alternate history. Explorers from the USA visit, and have adventures in the wilderness. As a subtext, Wilson introduces a far future attack by the equivalent of computer viruses on the memories of all the universe gathered by a race that seeks to outlast eternity by making Tippler's ideas come true.

Despite some excellent writing, this one just didn't work at all for me, and I certainly wouldn't have been nominating it for a Hugo. However I am getting more than a little tired of alternate history material, whatever the excuse for it.

Star Wars Vision of the Future by Timothy Zahn

Bantam, Sept 1999, 694pp, US$5.99 ISBN 0553578790

Sequel to Specter of the Past, this action packed novel by a well known SF writer should be very acceptable to all Star Wars fans. Thrawn is back (despite being dead), and is rallying Imperial forces for an attack on the New Republic, which is weakened by the threat of a Civil War. Lots of rushing around the galaxy, swinging light sabres. Non SW fans may wonder when the SW novels will manage to move past action adventure, and actually contain some considered writing (well, no, I don't really expect that to happen).

Once it really was a proud and lonely (and hidden) thing to be a fan, however now half the audience of every movie house consider themselves science fiction fans. In one sense it is great that so many people have come on board for this speculative ride, since we all eventually will live in the country of the future. However Star Wars is aimed at eight year olds buying action figures, and the "science", like most media SF, is all Hollywood magic, or outright fantasy. The productions that result are what Gregory Benford calls "SF lite", but to an audience that knows no other, this becomes what science fiction should be. Just as a great metropolitan newspaper is more than page three swimsuit girls, science fiction can be more than movie magic, and I believe it should attempt this. But the good stuff remains rare, Sturgeon's law (90% of everything is crud) still holds, and Gresham's law (the bad drives out the good) remains true.

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Graham Stone

GPO Box 4440, Sydney NSW 1044
1 May 1999

The Bibliography is close to complete (of course I've been saying that for a while) and I'm attacking the area of personal details on authors which I haven't gone into thoroughly enough. By the year's end, I seriously intend, whatever shape it's in I'll get it out.

Also, the other long term project, Notes on Australian SF. Based on many reviews and various bits written over decades, put together in a more or less logical order. Originally way back before I had a word processor Sean McMullen volunteered to scan in typed copy, and this continued in fits and starts at intervals.

John Zube

POB 52, Berrima NSW 2577
26 July 1999

We seem to be still very far away from the almost unlimited portable memory banks of SF, easily picking up and memorising all the articles and books, bibliographies, addresses, talks and discussions that we are interested in, and easily and fast retrieving them when when needed. We spoke about that ca. 20 years ago. The palm-held organisers offered now are only a tiny and limited shadow of this hoped for aid.

Programs multiply and become more and more complicated, rather than making jobs easier - except after prolonged learning periods - and when this is up then they tend to be already outdated by other ones.

The lifespan of CD-ROMs seems to be limited to 5-10 years, apart from new and expensive ones. The lifespan of sites on the Internet may be shorter still, in the average. And so far only a fraction of the sites seems to be archived somewhere on disks or CD-ROMs, with their limited lifespan, and from them onto paper or microfiche.

I still have not found an explanation why SF fans have so widely rejected their micrographics options, which they read thousands of times about in their SF stories and novels.

Chester D Cuthbert

1104 Mulvey Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3M 1J5
28 July 1999

The close of your first paragraph [in Geg 84] only confirms what all we retired people wonder: "How did we ever find time to handle a job?"

All those concise and perceptive book reviews make me wish I had not quit collecting six years ago, but I still have more books on hand than I shall succeed in reading. Fanzines continue to arrive and are enjoyed, but become more impossible to understand as technology advances and I remain computer illiterate.

Lloyd Penney with two letters to you seems determined to be Canada's Harry Warner, Jr. and always finds something enlightening to say.

Graham Stone

GPO Box 4440, Sydney 1044
14 August 1999

I am moving! Dire words. It's in Burwood, inner western area near the station, a good location just in the area I worked out is about the most convenient overall and asked for.

I have felt for some time that the return from trading wasn't much for the effort it took. And like a lot of precarious small businesses I don't think it can work with GST.

John Berry

4 Chilterns, S. Hatfield, Herts AL10 8J4 GB

I really like reading con reports, I've only been to one in 46 years, but from the con reports I've always assiduously read, I feel I've always been part of the scene!! From your comments on To Say Nothing of the Dog, you must have been shocked to hear that the novel was Hugo'd. I rate SF book comments by yourself and Richard Geis as the best published, on the premise that the ones I read accord remarkably well with the Lindsay and Geis observations.

Bob Smith

37 St Johns Road, Bradbury NSW 2560
5 October 1999

You were stopping at places I remember from my drives from Townsville to Sydney and back, in the late 1960's. It seems all your Aussiecon guests will have great memories of Australia (at least, the Eastern Seaboard, anyway), and that can only be a Good Thing. Being in the military, we considered ourselves fit enough to walk up Castle Hill, Townsville, but the only thing I remember being at the top was a TV mast. Down below, was Laverrack Barracks and the cinema I ran. That stretch of road from Townsville to Cairns may not have seemed as straight, but By Ghod! the cars used to hike along there! We (the Bandmaster and I owned a Morris 1100) usually got out of their way. As I recall, there were a few deceptive humps. Miles of beach and you daren't put your foot in the water.

Do you use the term "schematics" in deference to our American cousins?

... its really heart-warming to know Mae Strelkov is still going strong. (I think Baxter and I used to receive letters from her some ... umm, thirty-nine years ago ...) {{Alas, Mae died recently. EL}}

Andy Andruschak

PO Box 5309, Torrance cA 90510-5309 USA
1 December 1999

My brother marched me over to Sam's Club where I bought a floor model of a Compaq computer especially configured for internet use. $650 with a 17 inch monitor, sound system and modem.

But I'm still not sure how much I want to get involved with the internet. I remember all the spam and other nastiness the last time. I plan to totally avoid the newsgroups.

I may also be moving soon. I have been living with my landlady and her husband for over 10 years, but they now want to sell the house, which is taking too much of their time and money for upkeep. They plan to move into some sort of trailer home.

Marty Cantor

11825 Gilmore Street #105, North Hollywood CA 91606 USA
1 December 1999

At the beginning of September, I followed you into retirement.

I am still bemused by your response you made to John Berry, where you wrote, "If I still had a typewriter, especially one of the nice IBM Selectrics, I'd probably still do LoCs on it. Nothing faster than a typewriter for getting material written and gone on its way." Er, ah, huh? I can understand why some old pharts like John, usually not having the experience of how much easier writing can be with a computer, do not move to them from typers. But you, dear sir, have you spent so much time in the guts of computers that you also do not realise how much easier it is to loc on a computer than it is on a typer? Even a Selectric? My Selectric is sitting just beyond my scanner - I have not removed its cover ever since I got comfortable with this computer. I can compose, rewrite, eliminate typos, and put in fancy graphics, and do all kinds of fancy stuff a lot faster than I possibly can with my Selectric.

Now that I have all of this retirement time, the only thing which is keeping me from producing more locs is the lack of more zines to loc. Two things, though, keep me from producing more zines. One, with so many potential contributors working mostly on-line, I am having trouble getting contributions. Two, lack of money for zine production.

Pamela Boal

4 Westfield Way, Wantage, Oxon OX12 7EW UK
3 December 1999

As ever I find your reviews interesting and informative as on the whole my reading tastes are in line with your own it is helpful to know what not to bother with. Wow you actually have an osprey in your neighbourhood! A few pairs did start to nest in the UK, but as the protected (and kept secret) site is in Scotland I have only ever seen these birds on TV. {{We are near the Conway National Park, so a lot of wildlife remains nearby. The osprey sometimes hovers over the Terraces where we live, although mostly it ranges across Boathaven Bay. EL}}

Chester D Cuthbert

1104 Mulvey Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3M 1J5
9 December 1999

Only one of my insurance colleagues has elected to live the mobile life you are contemplating, but he has a large family of children living in various parts of North America and it is very convenient for visiting them. My father never owned a home and I determined that I would make sure of owning my own home before thinking of having a family. The homeless situation in Canada is very serious and I have never regretted my aim. Muriel and I have been in only two homes in 55 years of married life; we've been here since 1954. I dislike travel, so the peace and security of home is paramount.

Your extensive love of travel changes your priorities, I am sure, but the sacrifice of books and other personal property to suit your different retirement aims still bothers me. Longer lifespans are promised us and unless incomes can keep pace with inflation a reduced standard of living is almost inevitable. I studied investments for three months before I received my severance settlement from my employer; in a world economy where money is more important than people, understanding the system is essential.

I quit collecting anything but Arkham House books six years ago, but I still have our house crowded with books in case events make money worthless as happened in Europe after World War One.

Having lived almost destitute through the 'thirties, my fear of poverty dictated my philosophy, so I do not expect to have you share it. Most of my early friends have died and some were not in comfortable circumstances in late life. So I hope you will not mind my offering these comments.

I find I am content to live pretty much in the past and not attempt to cope with modern technology as you do. And do I detect some weariness in your reviews?

On average, Canadians owe more than a year's income, so the purchasing power to keep industry operating is diminishing. I am fearful of the consequences of easy credit.


Al Fitzpatrick reports on events of his life, like Christmas in July, and seeing "Trouble in the Paradise Hotel" and "It's Never Too Late" at the Rainbow Dinner Theatre, and a trip to Disney World in Florida.

David L Russell says his home town is Dennington, not Denningham.

Xmas (and other) Cards