The WSFA Journal Sept/Oct 2000

The WSFA Journal

The WSFA Journal Sept/Oct 2000

The Official Newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction Association -- ISSN 0894-5411

Edited by Samuel Lubell

Chicon Lacked Chi
Halloween Humor
Evolution in Action!
From Wizard to Scientist
Pecan Pie Bars
Still Looking for a Priest
New SF Television
Next Year in Jerusalem!
Leisurely Ramble about the Chicago Worldcon

Chicon Lacked Chi: Convention Report by Samuel Lubell

I'm glad Chicon wasn't my first Worldcon.  It's not that anything went spectacularly wrong; I just felt it a bit lackluster.  Yes, there was the endless hunt for food as most of nearby Chicago apparently shut down at 5 pm Friday; but that can't be blamed on the con people.  It took me half the convention before I learned where everything was (I got especially lost trying to Fairmont hotel which the map makes out to be two blocks away when it was practically next door.  I couldn't have been the only one to get lost; they had people waving signs with arrows to the Hugos and that was Saturday night.)  There were lots of problems with scheduling panels in too small rooms; some of this is inevitable but this year seemed more frequent than usual perhaps because they didn't have a convention center (still the Tor panel was so crowded that someone collapsed and the panel with Halderman and Silverberg had to be moved to a room without chairs).  There were some odd choices in scheduling similar panels simultaneously.  I'd be willing to bet that most of the audience for Heinlein on the year 2000 also would have been interested in sf writers predictions for 2000, but they were on at the same time.  This was also true for the panels on villains in sf and heroines in sf (although these two were combined due to a sudden room shortage.)   I would have criticized starting panels at 8:30 but I talked to someone who convinced me that not all fans are night owls and that no one forced anyone to attend a 8:30 panel.  But someone should have made sure that the panelists all agreed to show up at 8:30, I went to one panel on Star Wars that had to turn into an audience participation panel since only one of the panelists ever arrived.

            I heard horror stories about the art show and thought it somewhat small for a Worldcon but full of really good older art.  I subsequently learned that this wasn't the main art show at all but an a special museum-quality exhibit of art.  Well, I don't go to Worldcons for art (I'm not entirely sure why I go to Worldcons, but I know it's not for the art).  I guess I never made it to the main art show (I must have kept being distracted by the books since it was next to the dealer's room, besides it seemed to close mid-day Sunday.) 

            As usual, I spent too much money in the dealer's room.  But, I ask you, how can a fan be expected to resist goodies like Sylvia Engdahl's Children of the Star (a three book trilogy for $20), P.C. Hodgell's Dark of the Gods (containing both God Stalk and Dark of the Moon for $20) both from Meisha Merlin in trade pb or Major Ingredients: The Selected Short Stories of Eric Frank Russell (NESFA $29).  I also bought a bunch of used paperbacks and a review copy of Sharian Lewitt's Rebel Sultra a hardback novel dedicated to Joe Mayhew. 

            I'm beginning to see why longtime fans do not attend much of the programming.  A lot seemed repetitive.  It seemed to me I heard far more complaints about publishers and the state of publishing in general than in previous years.  The panel on reviewing SF books basically turned out to be a bunch of web book reviewers almost auditioning and didn't really go into the mechanics of book reviewing.  The panel on "How Well Did They Do" about writers predicting the future had some interesting stuff about older predictions like Wells and Verne and the predictable chuckling about writers have FTL spaceships flown using sliderules.  The Too Good to Be Popular panel began to focus on what it means to be popular and how the mainstream rejects sf (defined mainly as not being reviewed in The New York Times and such).  The panel on short stories made the good point that short stories are where the cutting edge of sf is forged (if anyone doesn't subscribe to at least two sf magazines, they should) and the training ground for new authors.  It is also a better place for new writers to make a name for themselves than novels.  The panel on sidekicks was interesting for what it revealed about authors.  Apparently a number of authors feel almost spectators as their books write themselves.  Joan D. Vinge seemed quite upset that a supporting character in The Snow Queen elevated himself to sidekick and then demanded two novels with him as the star.  There was an interesting panel on the censorship of Harry Potter which discussed the delicate line between parental control and censorship. 

            There was some interesting stuff from writers and publishers.  Tor said it now publishes the largest sf line in history.  There was an interesting panel on how Baen books established itself.  There were a number of panels of authors telling of their personal habits, one of the most interesting was the one about two writers in the same household.  The "How Did That Get Published" panel was itself self-censored as many of the panelists were reluctant to name names.  One editor was astonished that Gardner gave some practical advice not to send him more than one story at a time since that reduces the chances of a borderline story making it, "That's far more information to `game' the system than I would have said."  About half the authors started off their presentations saying they didn't know why they are on the panel, and in some cases, it showed.  Perhaps future programmers could take an extra step in matching panelists to things they know. 

            I missed most of the parties and attended the filksinging instead, the long waits for elevators and inability to go from West Tower to East Tower easily played a major role in that decision.  I did, of course, attend the WSFA party and wake for Joe Mayhew which was impressively organized.  I kept seeing the black ribbons with Joe's self-portrait throughout the convention.  My congratulations to Mike Nelson, Bob MacIntosh, and Judy Kindell for organizing it. 

            So overall I think Chicon was an okay worldcon but nothing really special.  I may be a bit overly jaded (but I've only attended two and a half Worldcons) but to me a Worldcon should be more than just a larger than usual regional with a Hugo ceremony attached.  Of course, this is just me, others have different opinions.  Write The WSFA Journal with your own take.

Hugo Winners: Novel: A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. Novella: "The Winds of Marble Arch" by Connie Willis. Novelette: "1016 to 1" by  James Patrick Kelly.  Short Story: "Scherzo with Tyrannosaur" by Michael Swanwick. Dramatic Presentation: Galaxy Quest. Pro Artist: Michael Whelan. Pro Editor: Gardiner Dozois.  Semi-prozine: Locus, ed Charles N. Brown. Fanzine: File 770, ed Mike Glyer. Fan Writer: Dave Langford. Fan Artist: Joe Mayhew. Related Book: Science Fiction of the 20th Century by Frank M. Robinson. John W. Campbell Award: Cory Doctorow.


Halloween Humor (collected from the Internet)

Did you ever notice that in Bram Stoker's book, "Dracula," the Transylvanian Count is portrayed as evil for sucking blood, but the English women who also become nosferatu are portrayed, not as evil, but as pitiable victims?  This is because, in Victorian tradition, the sin never sets on the British vampire. --Robert E. Lewis


Q. What household chose do vampires least like to perform?  A. Dust.


There once was a vampire called Mabel

Who's menstrual cycle was stable

                One weekend in four

                She'd sit on the floor

And drink herself under the table. 


A rich Italian businessman decided that he'd bring all of the royalty of Europe together in Italy for a big meeting and party. Every individual from every royal family in Europe was invited. This included a certain Count from Transylvania, Count Dracula.      All the royals were put in the biggest, fanciest hotel in all of Italy and the hotel staff were told to wait on the Royals hand and foot.  Count Dracula hadn't had a "meal" since he'd left the homeland so he was very glad when the chambermaid knocked on his door and asked if he needed anything. It didn't take him long to grab and suck all the blood out of her.  Faced with the problem of disposing the body, he threw the (now quite dead) chambermaid out the window  "I'm so high up, they'll never trace the body back to me... ha ha," he said.

                It just so happens that a British policeman, brought in to protect the Queen, was walking down the street when BANG! he gets hit by a falling dead body. This knocks him unconscious.

                Back in his hotel room Dracula is in the mood for "dessert" so he rings room service and orders some pie. Ten minutes later a young man arrives with the pie and Dracula invites him in, pounces, drains the body and then drops it out the window thinking, "Well, it worked once... why not again?"

                At this moment the policeman on the footpath below had just regained consciousness and was wondering what the hell was going on. His consciousness didn't last long, however, as he was instantly knocked out cold by Count Dracula's latest victim.

                Some time later the copper wakes up and sees that a small crowd has gathered around. As you may expect since there is an unconscious policeman and 2 dead people lying in the street.  The policeman gets his bearings back and then one of the onlookers asks "what's happened here?" "It's terrible!" says the policeman. "Drained wops keep falling on my head."


At the Halloween ball the ghosts danced sheet to sheet.

At the Halloween ball, a number of the ghosts became drunk and disorderly. One of the ghouls observed, "Just like when he was alive working as a bicycle mechanic, the bartender  got the spooks too tight."

What do you call a merry-go-round for ghosts? A Scareousel

What do goblins and ghosts drink when they're hot and thirsty? Ghoul-aid

Why can't the boy ghost have babies?  Because he has a Hollow-weenie.

Why did the ghost go into the bar? For the Boos.

What kind of cereal do ghouls eat? Ghost-Toasties

What happens when a ghost gets lost in the fog? He is mist. 

What did the Mommy ghost say to the baby ghost? Don't spook until your spooken to.

What do you call a ghost in a torn sheet?  A holy terror.

What kind of makeup do ghosts wear?  Mas-scare-a.

Why do girl ghosts go on diets?  So they can keep their ghoulish figures.

What do ghosts serve for dessert? I Scream. 

Why did the game warden arrest the ghost?  He didn't have a haunting license.  

Where do ghosts go shopping? In Boo-tiques. 

How do Halloween spooks learn to be so scary?  They attend ghost graduate school.

What do you get when you cross Bambi with a ghost? Bamboo

Why do ghosts have so much trouble dating? Women can see right through them.

Why is a ghost such a messy eater? Because he is always a goblin.

What does a ghost eat for breakfast? Scream of wheat!

Where do baby ghosts go during the day? Day scare centers 

Where do ghosts mail their letters?  At the ghost office. 

What's a ghosts favorite ride at the carnival?  The roller ghoster.

Where did the goblin throw the football?  Over the ghoul line. 

Evolution in Action!


The First Friday meeting in August (8/4) opened with Sam Pierce asking Sam Lubell, "Sam, shall we do it?"  Your humble correspondent agreed.  "Let's have a meeting!" he said hoarsely.  "Yo!" Elspeth quieted the crowd.  The First Friday was called to order at 9:26 in Maryland.  There was no old business.  Alexis for the entertainment committee said, "Last year, the Kansas School Board repealed evolution.  Now three of the four who did so were ousted in the primary."  Erica said that this was, "Evolution in action." 

Bob the treasurer walked in.  "Any money?" asked Sam P.  "How should I know?" replied the man with the checkbook.  "I just walked in.  I haven't had a chance to look."  While he was looking, Elspeth for the trustees reported, "an election for a con chair who might actually hold a convention."  Bob said we had $1,660.08.  "We need to hold a convention." Sam P said.  Richard Lynch pointed out, "That's up."  Bob MacIntosh said "We had some dues paid, we're up."  Sam Lubell handed him a bill for the Journal.  "We'll see about that." 

Erica said that the "Austerity committee noted the feeding frenzy when books were brought in at a previous meeting.  Suppose we designate a night where everyone can bring books and get all their stuff and charge a flat rate for books with the money going to WSFA."  A WSFAn said, "We can do it like a land grab."  Sam P ruled that this was new business and asked for any other committees first, then opened the floor to new business.  Sam L said that September has five Fridays.  Sam P. said that the first Friday is at Chicon.  Bob added, "And Eric Jablow offered his home for those not lucky to go."  Sam L. said, "We'll have to get directions up on the web page."

Mike Nelson said, "Friday at Bucconeer, a WSFA meeting at the Davy Jones Locker room with a wake for Joe at 9:30."  Sam P gave the ritual "Covert, anything to report?" and Covert said, "I'm tracing a lead of a place good to hold functions on King Street."  Sam P approved, "Some action then."

Announcements.  There will be parties at Chicon in Bucconeer's Room 2676.  Keith suggested selling Disclave '97 buttons for those thousands of people who said they were there and need proof.  The meeting adjourned at 9:44.  Elspeth noted that "In 1970 in the United States paperbacks cost 12% less than the hourly wage. In 1995 they cost 60% more than the hourly wage."

Attendance: VP Sam Pierce, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. Elspeth Kovar, Bernard Bell, Colleen Cahill, Alexis Gilliland, Erica Ginter, Lee Hagee, Keith Lynch, Nicki and Richard Lynch, Winton Matthews, Michael Nelson, Barry and Judy Newton, Dick Roepke, Steven Smith, Michael Taylor, Madeleine Yeh, Michael Vassar, Ron Kean, Kim and Dave Thomas, Chris Callahan, Casey Key.


From Wizard to Scientist: 

Changing Views Towards Scientists From Hawthorne to Twain (Part I)

By Samuel James Lubell

In nineteenth-century America, there arose an explosion of science. This historical change colored the fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain. Writing in the 1840's, Hawthorne created mysterious, malevolent scientists whose abilities approach those of sorcerers. In 1889, Mark Twain created a benign engineer who only pretends to be a wizard. This difference reflects the different views towards science prevalent when each author was writing.

In Hawthorne's time, science was only beginning to develop. Scientists moved from being natural philosophers to more utilitarian scientists, claiming to achieve practical results. During this initial period, many doctrines flourished that were later discredited as not being "true science' but only "pseudo-science". Nathaniel Hawthorne did not approve of these changes: he believed that scientists possessed a powerful but threatening force which they were using to meddle in nature without fully understanding the possible results. Hawthorne's scientists, Aylmer of "The Birth­mark" (l843), Rappaccini of "Rappaccini's Daughter" (l844), and Chillingworth of The Scarlet Letter (1850), reveal his fundamental fear of the new role of science. Hawthorne linked his scientists to wizards who control minds, bodies, and souls. Thus, by mixing science with magic, he revealed the dangerous similarity between them. Hawthorne created his fictional world by extending contemporary scientists' extravagant claims of power, but not giving them enough knowledge for its control.

By the second half of the century, when Twain was writing, science began to fulfill its earlier promises. In true partnership with technology it created new electrical inventions that had a direct effect on people's lives. As "pseudo-science" was discredited and legitimate science grew more specialized and professional, science became seen as identical to progress. Dazzled by its transforming power, the public grew more supportive of science. Mark Twain, who was personally involved with new technology, absolutely approved of these changes. His A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court exalted the progressive virtues of science. The Yankee went into the backward sixth century and through his technology, single-handedly attempted to modernize the country, introducing nineteenth-century "civilization". Although the Yankee pretended to be a wizard, in reality he fought magic and superstition in the form of Merlin and the Church.

Hawthorne portrayed his scientists as powerful sorcerers, combining science and magic to illustrate their common threat. By contrast, Twain had his Yankee fight magic, easily defeating the powerless Merlin. This thesis will explore the connection between the historical change in the public's views of science and the simultaneous literary change in Hawthorne's and Twain's depiction of the scientist in fiction. The nineteenth century moved from conceiving of the scientist as wizard to interpreting the scientist as embodiment of progress. Curiously, the late twentieth century may have gone full circle, returning back to Hawthorne's conception of the scientist as wizard meddling in realms beyond his understanding or control.

 In The Scarlet Letter when the physician Roger Chillingworth is introduced, Nathaniel Hawthorne seemingly insignificantly describes the townspeople's awe of the physician's European associates, "whose scientific attainments were esteemed hardly less than supernatural."  Yet this sentence is a rare explicit admission by Hawthorne to the connection between scientists and sorcerers that is such a major theme throughout his work. In his stories of science he includes alternative magical explanations for the powers of his scientists. Aylmer in "The Birthmark"reads sorcerer's books and works to achieve eternal life and perfection. In "Rappaccini's Daughter," the physician and biologist Rappaccini, literally creates a new form of life, like a wizard summoning a familiar. Similarly, in The Scarlet Letter, Chillingworth, the physician and "man of science," perverts his learning, vengefully torturing his patient. The scientist in Hawthorne is both natural philosopher and wizard, technician and sorcerer. There is no boundary line between science and magic; Hawthorne's characters belong to both the sphere of science and the magic circle at the point where the two blend together.

Hawthorne himself was educated in the sciences,  as evident in his tenure as editor of The American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge. From March to August of 1836 he wrote, or selected from already published sources, every article in the magazine. Each issue contained a few short articles on science, generally accounts from the natural sciences on animals, fossils, and scientific exploring expeditions. Some of his article's sources point towards much science reading by the young Nathaniel Hawthorne, most notably "Mind and Matter" (March) identified as from "Babbage on the Economy of Machinery," "Extinct Animals" (June) from the Magasin Universel, and the "Apparent Distance of Objects" (July) from Arnott's Elements of Physics. Hawthorne's original articles include an article on Phrenology (April), and "Natural History Among the Ancients" (August) in which he displayed his belief in the advancement of science, and an awareness that the science of his own time was not itself infallible:


Their [Greeks and Romans] strictly intellectual cultivation was the most perfect of which human powers are susceptible; but they were mere children in all matters that are to be learned by physical experiments, the observation of facts and scientific analysis... Yet let us not look back too scornfully upon these elder times; for Science is even now but in her alphabet; and it is unquestionable that future investigators will convict the present age of absurdities. (Volume II, August 1836, p. 489-90)


Such absurdities may have included the prevalence of what historians today call "pseudo-science".  In an article on phrenology-the science of reading a person's character from bumps on their skull- Hawthorne could not decide if phrenology was a science. He writes:


...Phrenology, therefore, in reference to the opinion of the wise, might still be ranked among the doubtful sciences. For ought we know, it may hereafter be as irrefragably confirmed as another other doctrine, in physics or meta-physics. On the other hand, the next generation may see cause to reject it, as utterly as we do judicial astrology." (April, 1836 p.337)


Hawthorne never decided if these "doubtful sciences" were real or fake; he remained skeptical. While in England in 1858, Hawthorne wrote in his notebook about hearing Dr. Garth Wilkinson's accounts of spiritualist manifestations: "But again, do I really believe it? Of course not; for I cannot consent to let Heaven and Earth, this world and the next, be beaten up together like the white and yolk of an egg... I would not believe my own sight or touch of the spiritual hands."  Ironically, rather than adopting a spiritualist account, Hawthorne believed that the doctor's vision was caused by magnetic suggestion, itself a "pseudo-science."

                Because Hawthorne did not know the extent and powers of these sciences, he feared them. In his stories he ascribed tremendous abilities to his scientists, "a power that in real life they would not have been likely to claim." (Kreuter, 1963) He made his scientists magical, almost God-like in their powers. In "The Birthmark," Hawthorne shows his dread of the limitless power of science: "[The scientist] would ascend from one step of powerful intelligence to another, until the philosopher should lay his hand on the secret of creative force and perhaps make new worlds for himself."  Even outside his fiction, Hawthorne dreaded the power of science over the soul. In the early nineteenth century, mesmerism was considered a science, and many people sought out mesmerists to heal internal ailments by the transference of their "magnetic fluid." One such patient was Sophia Peabody, Hawthorne's future wife. Horrified to learn that Sophia had been regularly seeing a mesmerist, Hawthorne wrote her from Brook Farm revealing a tremendous fear of the extent of mesmerism s powers and of its harmful effects:


But, belovedest, my spirit is moved to talk with thee to-day about these magnetic miracles, and to beseech thee to take no part in them. I am unwilling that a power should be exercised on thee, of which we know neither the origin nor consequence, and the phenomena of which seem rather calculated to bewilder us.... Supposing that this power arises from the transfusion of one spirit into another, it seems to me that the sacredness of an individual is violated by it... thou surrenderest more than thine own moral and spiritual being...


Clearly, Hawthorne believed that mesmerism was more than just a hoax. He feared it as a "power," a branch of knowledge, of which humans did not know enough to be able to control safely; a science that could destroy the human soul. Hawthorne's scientist characters expose this fear through their control of minds, bodies, and souls.

                This dangerous power of science dominating others recurs throughout Hawthorne's fiction. The misuse of knowledge was a persistent theme in the Gothic Romances, the popular fiction of the day, especially in the Faust stories. Although the characters in Gothics were usually not cloaked in scientific guise, they share Hawthorne's scientists' lust for knowledge and desire to interfere with nature.  In one sense, then, Hawthorne is telling Gothic variations of the Faust myth, showing characters who surrender their souls to the devil in return for knowledge and power. The scientists' own search for truth becomes the exploitation of it. Yet Hawthorne's characters are too powerful to be the victim Faust; instead they resemble Mephistopheles, the devil puppet master "who sets the conflict in motion, leads his puppets on to an assault on moral law that precipitates their doom,"(Stein, 1968) while himself remaining in the background. This resemblance to Mephistopheles arises from Hawthorne's conception of his characters' true sin their power over other people. Science, like magic, is a means to control. But Hawthorne's scientists are not able to regulate this power, allowing it to pass the limits of science and become magic.

Hawthorne's scientists function as modern-day wizards; only a very thin line, if any, separates their science from sorcery. Aylmer of "The Birthmark" has a "love of science," but his accomplishments and inventions all have a magical tinge to them: his poison is called an "elixir of immortality," and in his final effort to cure Georgiana he concocts a potion indistinguishable from that which a wizard might brew. Similarly, the scientist's daughter Beatrice in "Rappaccini's Daughter," though supposedly created through science, may also be the deadly "poison maIden" of Baglioni's fable. Hawthorne's story describes Beatrice and her poison in the language of the spiritual and supernatural, not that of the physical and scientific. Also, Chillingworth, in the course of The Scarlet Letter, transforms himself into a fiend, almost a Devil, through his manipulation of Dimmesdale's soul.

With this emphasis on the supernatural, the magic in Hawthorne at times overwhelms the science. Prudence Steiner, in her dissertation Rappaccini's Family makes the point that the reader of Hawthorne's stories sees very little of the science itself. The science is just a stage setting, a disguise to hide the magical doings of the characters. She writes, "The science is confined to a few pieces of apparatus. Of the activity itself, the hypotheses, the analyses, the failures, we know practically nothing." Although Hawthorne calls these characters scientists, their actions are more appropriate to sorcerers than to scientists and doctors. In all these stories the scientist first gains knowledge and then, like a wizard, applies his knowledge to rule over others. In a day when science was seen as a harmless diversion, Hawthorne used magic to show that science too could be misused in human hands.

.     .     .

Aylmer in "The Birthmark," first published in The Pioneer in March of 1843, is possibly the most explicitly scientific of all of Hawthorne's characters. The narrator specifically states in the very first sentence, "there lived a man of science, an eminent proficient in every branch of natural philosophy." The bulk of the story takes place in Aylmer's lab, where his efforts to remove his wife's birthmark and thereby render her perfect result in her death. Aylmer is a perfectionist, both in his work and his love. Not content with "the best that the world has to offer," he uses his science to dissect his wife's "earthly imperfection," thereby showing his superiority over God, the creator of flawed Nature. Through "The Birthmark," Hawthorne suggests that this quest for perfection is a scientific trait, and the story's unhappy outcome warns of the results when science claims too much power- the power to control and alter nature.

Although the story hints at a magical explanation for the mark on Georgiana's cheek, which would suggest a story of science struggling against magic, this is not the case since Aylmer himself is drenched in magic. Hawthorne does not linger long on Aylmer's researching days, when he limited himself to the scientist's role of learning about nature, but instead concentrates on Aylmer fulfilling the sorcerer's role of twisting and perverting nature to achieve his own ideal of perfection. When the scientist trespasses beyond a doctor's curative role for his own personal motivations he performs magic and not science. The pale, bookish Aylmer is disturbed by Georgiana's birthmark which represents vitality, force, and everything in her beyond his control. He desires to remove it to gain total mastery of his wife.

Aylmer's shift from scientist to wizard is a result of coveting this control. Early in the story, the narrator sets out Aylmer's scientific achievements, showing Aylmer acting within a scientific framework, pursuing and adding to mankind's learning:


[Aylmer] investigated the secrets of the highest cloud region and of the profoundest mines; he had satisfied himself of the causes that kindled and kept alive the fires of the volcano; and had explained the mysteries of the fountains.... Here too, at an earlier period, he had studied the wonders of the human frame. . .


Significantly, the scientist stops an investigation into "the very process by which Nature assimilates all her precious influences from earth and air, and from the spiritual world" when he recognizes his trespass on the secrets of Nature. But when the scientist resumes this line of investigation to try to remove the birthmark, he moves beyond the domain of science into that of wizardry. The text even makes a direct conflation "He was confident in his science and felt that he could draw a magic circle round her within which no evil might intrude." His attempts to control nature are blasphemous intrusions on God and nature, while his learning had been more innocent legitimate science. But, to Hawthorne, once knowledge is gained, man's nature will always tempt him to move over the border. So ultimately, scientific knowledge itself becomes a temptation and a threat.

Much of the story is an allegory where the science and the magic stand for one another, since to Hawthorne, they both have the same danger. The objects of Aylmer's labor, the practical applications of his science, are indistinguishable from products of enchantment. He shows Georgiana "airy figures, absolutely bodiless ideas, and forms of unsubstantial beauty" which, although optical phenomena generated by science, create an illusion "almost perfect enough to warrant the belief that her husband possessed sway over the spiritual world." His records of his past researches into alchemy and the elixir of life are kept in "sorcerer's books," Even his final attempt to cure Georgiana is through a "potion", like a witch's brew. Hawthorne constantly mixes scientific and magical terms to point towards the similarities between scientific and magical motives. This symbolism is not just the narrator's, but the author's as well: He has Georgiana cry, "It is magical!" when her husband grows a plant in seconds, another meddling into nature.  Clearly, Aylmer is at least as much a wizard as he is a scientist.


Colleen Cahill's Pecan Pie Bars


Serving Size  : 16    Preparation Time :1:00

Categories    : sweets


  Amount  Measure       Ingredient -- Preparation Method

--------  ------------  --------------------------------

  2        cups                   all-purpose flour

  1/2      cup                    sugar

  1/8      teaspoon             salt

  3/4      cup                    butter or margarine

  4        large                   eggs -- lightly beaten

  2 1/2    cups                  pecans -- finely chopped

  1        teaspoon              vanilla


Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, cut in 3/4 cup of butter thoroughly with a pastry blender until mixture resembles very fine crumbs. Press mixture evenly in a greased 13"x9" pan, using a piece of plastic wrap to press crumb mixture firmly in the pan. Bake at 350 degrees fro 17 to 20 minutes.


Combine brown sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of butter in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently. Remove from heat. Pour 1/4 of the hot mixture into the beaten eggs; add to remaining hot mixture. Stir in pecans and vanilla. Pour filling over crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 34-35 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Treasurer's Report by Bob MacIntosh

Before I disappear off to Chicago, I'm filling the August report of poor, poor, poor WSFA's treasury.



First Friday                $25.00

WSFA Journal           $50.73

Third Friday                $25.00


Total                           $100.73


Revenue:   Dues collected            $30.00 (Chris Callahan, Flash, & Lee Hagee)


"We're Still Looking for a Priest"


Before the 8/18 Third Friday meeting in Virginia, Mike Nelson told a trifle bizarre joke.  Alexis told a barn burning joke.  Lee Gilliland told a dumb crook joke.  Judy then said, "Okay, on that note, she bailed."  Mike Nelson complained, "But we weren't joking about lawyers!"  Judy, ignoring the interruption, said, "It's 9:15, let's start the meeting.  I assume something happened last time."  Sam Lubell replied.  "There was a small matter of an election.  I can't say Disclave chair..."  "Con chair," Judy corrected.  Sam continued.  "And we'll be in two places next meeting.  One at Eric's and one in Chicago."  Judy asked the club, "How many will be at the Virginia meeting only?"  Two hands went up.  "How many at Chicon," lots and lots of hands were raised.  "The Chicon meeting will be followed by a wake for Joe."  Mike said, "We're still looking for a priest."  Bob said the treasury was "1,589.35, not much."  Calls for a bake sale were heard.

Alexis said, "The entertainment committee brought you the Democrats at their fuzziest."  Lee said, "You know how bad it is when you look back at Nixon and say he wasn't that bad."  Judy asked her for the library report.  Lee replied, "Speaking of Hitler, I have in my hand..."  She was corrected by those who knew their history.  "I have a contract.  We have two weekends to chose from around the 15th of October.  We have a room but questions.  Do we want to have artists to sell their stuff.  If we do, 20% of sales have to go to friends of the libraries."  There was some calling out that resulted in consensus that people thought sales should be off premises.  Lee continued, "We can post at the Library website but they don't want flyers.  No handing stuff on the street.  No food or drink.  Thank you."

Judy called on the Austerity committee.  "I don't know what happened," said Eric.  "It was austere."  Sam P said, "Actually, it was pretty nice."  Covert had nothing to report and Bob said, "I just got the job."  Elspeth said, "I'm hotel hunting.  I need to talk to the chair.  A number of hotels have corkage problems and don't like outside food."  Covert said, "In the past we've promised hundreds of room nights.  That bought us much tolerance."  Someone asked when the convention would be.  Elspeth said, "We're looking at September and October.  These are busy months.  We have to pay for function space."

Judy called on publications.  Sam L said, "Thanks to Keith, we have July and August up."  Elspeth said, "I want to thank Keith.  I went to the site and found everything I needed."  Keith said, "Thank you.  See the Journal for exhaustive detail on the site."

For new business Sam Lubell pointed out that "If we don't want the con chair to name the con differently each year, the decision of what to call it should not just be left to this year's con chair."  Judy said, "Okay, send suggestions to Sam."  A WSFAn said, "But they have to be serious."   Alexis said, "Since when?"  Judy said, "Just submit them to Sam and we'll come to consensus or take a vote or something."

Mike asked if third Friday in September was at the Ginters.  "Yes, back to normal, what's normal for us anyway." 

Someone asked what's being done about Joe's cartoon book.  Judy called on the publications committee.  Sam Pierce said, "Didn't Philadelphia promise to fund it."  Sam L. pointed out that the publications committee had never been formally charged with producing such a book.  Judy replied, "You are now charged.  Do you want a committee?"  Sam said, "Evan would be logical."  Lee said, "I'd like to help." 

The club decided not to do anything for 5th Friday in September since it will be Rosh HaShanna.  Lance said that Eurocon had a 5 day con for $30 with room nights at $10.  Chuck's Red Dress run will be October 7th for DC Hashers.  He warned everyone else to stay out of town.  Obi-wan Kenbobi died, "Show me the money, Luke."  Various WSFAns won various prizes at state fairs.  There was a motion to adjourn but Bob said, "you heard a commotion, I don't know about a motion." 

Attendance: Pres. Judy Kindell, VP Sam Pierce, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. Lee Gilliland, Trust. Eric Jablow, Trust. Elspeth Kovar, 2000 Chair Covert Beach.  (All officers present, collect the full set.)  Matthew Appleton, Bernard Bell, Colleen Cahill, Chuck divine, Alexis Gilliland, Lee Hagee, Keith Lynch, Niki and Richard Lynch, Winton Matthews, Walter Miles, Michael Nelson, Barry and Judy Newton, Meridel Newton, Lance Oszko, Rebecca Prather, Dick Roepke, Steven Smith, Michael Taylor, Michael Walsh, Madeline Yeh, Chris Callahan, Judy Scheiner.


New Science Fiction Television

Cursed  aka "The Steven Weber Show," (NBC  Tues 8 pm)  Ad agency executive is cursed by a blind date and has "everything that can go wrong go wrong" type humorous crises. 

Dark Angel (Fox, Tuesdays, starts Oct 3 9pm with a 2 hour movie) - Written and produced by Titanic director James Cameron, this is the story of a genetically engineered girl (stronger, faster etc.) in a dark, government-run post-apocalyptic America 21st-century.  She lives by stealing and gets involved in the resistance against the oppressive government while trying to find her family.  The two hour first episode reportedly cost $10 million.  Fox doesn't support sf shows but owes Cameron big, so it might stay.

Freakylinks (Fox Fridays 8)  Web Journalist investigates the supernatural while searching for long-lost twin.  This is supposed to be a scaled down X-Files.  I can't see this lasting the season.

Freedom (UPN  Friday Oct 27 8 pm)  "An action-packed martial arts drama," Special Forces soldiers work for the Resistance after a military coop has overthrown the U.S. government.  It is produced by Matrix producer Joel Silver.  UPN has defined its niche as the WWF male audience and is going after it full blast. 

The Fugitive (CBS Fri 8) updates the classic 1960s action series, starring Tim Daly as the Dr. Kimble wrongfully accused of killing his wife, who hunts for the real murderer while being chased by Mykelti Williamson as Lt. Gerard.  Why not just rebroadcast the original?

Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda (Syndicated, in DC channel 50, first week of October).  Yet another series based on a discarded idea by the deceased Star Trek creator.  Walter Jon Williams is reportedly involved in the writing of it.  Supposedly the show focuses on a captain of a starship in the early days of the formation of a "Federation-type" government.  With Star Trek on the wane, this might be a good time for a new starship show.

Level Nine (UPN Friday Oct 27 9pm )  Hi-tech FBI crimefighters.  If it lasts three months, I'll be surprised.

Lone Gunman (Fox Thurs at 8 but not until 2001).   X-Files Mulder's conspiracy hacking friends get their own drama-comedy. 

Night Visions aka Night Terrors (Fox Fridays 9) is a "Twilight Zone"-like anthology series featuring two stories within each hour that incorporate horror, psychological drama and supernatural adventure.

Special Unit 2 (UPN Midseason replacement)  Secret NY Police unit fights half-human half-monster creatures called "Links".  A show would have to be pretty bad to be yanked in favor of this. 

Ultraviolet (Fox, midseason replacement) Based on the British series, policeman discovers Federal high-tech organization that fights vampires (called leeches).  The British original was supposed to be good.

Returning Shows

Angel (WB Sept 26).  The show is supposed to be a bit darker this season and move further away from its Buffy roots.  Also Gunn (the black leader of a street gang that fights vampires) comes on as a regular, giving the show a hippier, edgier feel.  Season one was pretty good, I'll stick around for S2.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WB Sept 26)  The producers seem aware that fans disliked the last season and have promised to refocus on the core characters and give Xander and Giles more to do.  Buffy gets a little sister and faces Dracula. I'm one of this disappointed in the past year, I hope the show does better.

Charmed (WB Thurs Sept 21) The show is supposed to get some direction with an evil organization attacking the witches.  Piper no longer wants to be a witch and a new DA causes problems.  Also, new romances for Pru and Phoebe.  I thought the show improved last season.

La Femme Nikita (USA Network) has been saved from cancellation (sort of) and will air eight new episodes starting in January.  Also Pretender (formerly NBC) may be brought back for two made-for-TV movies on TNT.

Roswell (WB  Monday Oct 2nd)  The series will refocus more on the sf elements and may range further afield than town limits.  I'll give it another chance but it seemed too much a soap opera.

Sabrina (was ABC now WB, Fridays Sept 22nd).  Sabrina moves stations and moves to college.  (giving the WB three shows that have a witch in college, while none of the other networks have even one.)  Her new roommates become major characters.  Let's see how long before they learn her secret only to be zapped with a memory blanker whammy.

Star Trek: Voyager (UPN Wednesday, Oct 4)   Its last season gives this show a choice.  It can do something really surprising and innovative or it can continue with its mediocre status as the worst Trek ever.  Make a wild guess.  Supposedly there will be more fights with Borg, Seven gets a love interest, and there is no word as to whether the ship gets home or not.

X-Files (Fox)  Due to David Duchovny's salary demands, he will only be on about half the episodes.  Sculley will need a new partner and the season will focus on the "Search for Mulder"


This Week We're in Chicago.  Next Year in Jerusalem!

The 9/1 First Friday WSFA meeting took place a little further away from Washington than usual (or a little closer, depending on which Washington you mean) as it was held at the Chicago Worldcon.  "Meeting about to begin" Bob brought the meeting to order.  Judy waited for quiet and said, "Welcome to the First Friday meeting of WSFA, the DC science fiction club.  We have a newly elected con chair.  WSFA used to hold a convention called Disclave.  We haven't for a few years, but hope to hold one next year."  She was corrected by someone saying, "No, we will hold one next year" to which someone else said, "Next year in Jerusalem." 

Bob MacIntosh continued, "The convention will be held in 2001 either in the last two weekends in September or the first in October.  I have done three hotel walkthroughs.  I hope you are all ready to work."  He held up an address sheet.  "It's been a few years since we last held a convention, we need new addresses.   Core WSFAns don't have to, we know where you live and how to drag you out."  Judy introduced the lovely, talented, and generous hosts of our monthly meetings.  "If interested check out our website.  We do switch meeting places periodically.  This week we're in Chicago.  Check"  Someone yelled out, what happens if you do .orgy?  Sam P replied, "You get the Disclave 97 memory page."

Alexis announced that the Entertainment Committee brought us a Worldcon.  Lee for the library committee said she has found five authors for the library event.  "We're doing a meet the authors at a library in October.  Check the web page."  Judy said, "The other important thing this year was the death of Joe Mayhew.  We are cohosting with Bucconeer a wake in his memory for all the things he did with the Progress Reports and the bid.  We have pictures and a poster to be signed.  Eat, drink, remember Joe and have a good time."  Mike announced he had Hugo voter ribbons.  The treasurer's report was "We have a little money."  Lee replied, "We're having a party."  Bob said, "Yes, but Bucconeer is paying for it."

Attendance:  Pres Judy Kindell, VP Sam Pierce, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust Lee Gilliland, Trust. Elspeth Kovar, Alexis Gilliland, Erica and Karl Ginter, Lee Hagee, Keith Lynch, Barry and Judy Newton, Meridel Newton, Kathi Overton, John Pomeranz, Michael Taylor, Michael Walsh, Perrianne Lurie, Anne and Paul Drnk, Tom Schaad, Matt Leger (FMR), John Galt, Ron Taylor (of the satellite Denver chapter.)



A Leisurely Ramble about the Chicago Worldcon

By Alexis A. Gilliland


We drove, leaving bright and early Monday morning, to visit my brother Walter in Goshen, Indiana, arriving about 9PM.  Highlights of the visit included a trip to Shipshewana, which is an Amish shopping center and tourist trap, a sort of "Amishland" without the Disney high tack. We had a ride in a sectarian buggy--"We have windows that slide up and down, they have windows that snap on and off."--and lunch at an Amish fast food restaurant.  The young lady who took our order at the cash register then brought us our home made root beers at the table, and later our food order; from what I could see, all the wait staff worked the cash registers as well, an arrangement Disney might find hard to emulate.  Other highlights?  My niece, Karen, is getting married in October to a fellow who looks much like a younger, slimmer version of her father.  Walter also called my brother Paul in Spokane, Washington; my nephew, Bill (Paul's son), has a serious girl friend, a juggler with three kids, 8 to 11.  Bill, a graduate student in biochemistry, juggles as a hobby and rents a room in the lady's house.  Paul did sound a bit bemused as he relayed this information.  An anti-highlight:  Walter's house makes strange noises in the night, and I didn't sleep well, leaving for Chicago about 11AM Wednesday with a two-night sleep deficit under my pillow.

          Some days are diamonds, some days are stones; Wednesday was a six-carat blue white diamond for Lee.  Before going to the hotel, we began by taking in the Titanic exhibition, she being a Titanic buff of long standing.  Wonderful, wonderful, the joy of answering people's questions and being asked if she worked for the exhibit.  And then we walked around a corner to find ourselves in a splendid reproduction of the grand stairway.  Her jaw dropped, and her thought balloon said "Oh my God . . ."  In the gift shop she found books.  Then, fulfilling a long time ambition of hers, we went to the Institute of Oriental Studies.  Only one gallery was open, which was just as well, because we only had an hour before closing time.  In the gift shop she found more books.  We then drove to the Hyatt by a circuitous route, and checked in.  I went down to register in the con, and Lee went into her room to take a nap (or more likely to put her feet up and look at those great books we'd bought in the museums).  Wandering, I met people who told me: "Tracy is looking for Lee."  I made a note, and went back to the room, catching Lee just as she was coming out the door.  I told her Tracy was looking for her, and she said:  "Tracy who?"  I consulted my note.  "Tracy Kremer."  Lee did a double take and went back into the room to call hotel information.  Tracy, her long lost best friend from 15 years ago, was in the Charlotte in 2004 suite, where she was working as Irv Koch's chief of staff.  We immediately go up, and the room resounded with girlish squeals of delight and enthusiasm, to such an extent that when Lee went to the bar for a beer, the bartender carded her!  What a cherry to top off the sundae that was Wednesday.

          The parties.  We were in the East Tower of the Hyatt, which meant that we could start on the 30th floor and find parties on each floor down to our room.  One evening we went down the West Tower the same way--my atavistic urge to attend ALL the parties at a Worldcon getting the better of my good sense.  The pro forma WSFA meeting on Friday also served to kick off the wake for Joe Mayhew, whose funeral urn was duly present, and on whose behalf a choked-up Mike Walsh later accepted the fan artist Hugo.  (Mike could have made fannish history by lugging up the urn.  "What do you think of winning the Hugo, Joe?"  "Awriight!")  We met lots of old friends and a few new ones, and had a strenuous good time, the parties all being loud and hot, except when they were hotter and louder.  Lee was all partied out by Saturday, and went to bed before midnight on Sunday when I followed her by maybe half an hour.  Pacing helps; I got by by taking lots of naps, but the fatigue was cumulative, and parties became less enjoyable in consequence.  (Sleeping remained a problem.  The silver lining:  Waking up at 6AM means that one can take a leisurely hot bath before strolling out to meet the day.  By Sunday and Monday, however, I was sleeping in until 8 and 9AM respectively, and skipped the bath on Monday.)  The Meet The Pros bash over at the Fairmont was all those room parties rolled into one.  Did I say hotter and louder?  The MTP was the hottest and loudest.  Think registration day at a large university with a cash bar and free ice cream.  It was a little bit cooler in the lobby, but we didn't stay long, returning to the lesser functions held in the Hyatt East. 

          The program.  I went diligently to my assigned programs; Teddy Harvia, who had only one item, wondered how I got all those assignments.  I told him that I'd filled out the programming form they send you early on (which he had not) to declare that I was willing to do more programs than they were likely to use me on.  "You're just versatile," said Teddy.  My Kaffee­klatch did have one fan in attendance, so Lee and I sat and chatted with him for the hour.  Hey, if you only have one admirer don't snub him.  The artist demos were a little better, with three or four people watching me draw cartoons.  Working with John Hertz, I was going to be a docent for the art show; on Thursday morning (Hertz had penciled me in for Wednesday afternoon, but the art show ran late on its set-up) I was the very first, and I waited 20 minutes past the appointed time of 11AM before wandering off.  Hertz had found a couple of people for me, but too late, so he did the docent thing and showed them around the art show himself.  One panel (Luddite SF, surely a contradiction in terms) was cancelled.  The other four panels were well attended, large rooms a third full (the fan artist panel) to ball rooms more than half full (the movie panel and the fan vs pro panel with Terry Pratchett)  Even the Monday panel on asteroids and comets was lively and entertaining, with one expert from the University of Arizona (his badge said Brother Guy) Hal Clement and me.  I am perhaps insufficiently smartass.  Mentioning the Chixilub Impact led to the periodic (regularly every 26 million years) extinctions found in the fossil record, and Hal said he couldn't believe that a dark companion star was capable of dislodging the comets responsible on such a regular basis.  I wasn't sure if Brother Guy was in orders, so I refrained from observing that there could be a theological explanation:  If evolution is God's solitaire, every 26 million years He starts a new game.  Major items were the Hugos and the Masquerade, also in the Fairmont, and, as is traditional, we went.  Points off for cramming them into an inadequate space, although both items were on closed circuit TV for the fannish audience, and may have been better watched on the tube.

          Going home.  After the last panel we checked out and started for home.  Lee's low point of the convention came as she was walking to the car and her cosmetic case fell open.  I remembered that in 1991 Dolly and I had driven home in one fell swoop.  Of course we'd left mid-morning instead of 2PM and I was nine years younger, but the memory is cherished, supporting the delusion that I could do it again.  Well, no.  This time we made it across Ohio and on to the second stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, checking into the Beaver Valley Motel at 11:15 PM, arriving home the next day around 5PM.  Offload, unpack, play with the cat, eat supper, check the mail, pay the bills, put the suitcases in the attic, go to bed.  Take the suitcases back down to look for stuff, read the mail, including Fosfax #200, whose editor, Tim Lane, will not countenance a kind word for Bill Clinton.  Pick up a new toothbrush and hairbrush for Lee, go out to Scan to pick up the comfy chair Lee ordered in June, start to loc #200, sell the white Nissan parked in front of the house, replace the suitcases, finally read #200; oops.  This con report was to have been the start of my loc for Fosfax #201, but got edited out as being incompatible with the shorter and more acerbic letter I finally sent.  Go out to the Bamboo Buffet with Lee and Jim and Merly (Jim's girlfriend); my first plate was an assortment of sushi, including a new-to-me item.  Jim:  "What's that?"  Me:  "A seaweed ice cream cone."  Jim:  "It is not!"  Me: (holding it up) "It is conical, and it is also seaweed."  Jim:  "But not ice cream!"  Me: (putting on the green horseradish)  "With enough wasabi, who can tell?"  Thus does the worldcon segue back into normal silliness.