The Official Newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction
Association -- ISSN 0894-5411
Edited by Samuel Lubell email@example.com
Lee's Library Letters
Speaking of Lee Strong and Movies... Lee's Movie Reviews
Star Trek: Nemesis
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Extended Edition)
Reign of Fire
Nick Pollotta to Be Capclave 2004 GOH
The Library of Congress Professional Association's What IF... Discussion
Steve Smith, Emperor of the Universe
John Barnes' The Sky So Big and Black
Edited by Samuel Lubell firstname.lastname@example.org
By Samuel Lubell
To Joss Whedon from Fox -- A bug swatter sized for Fireflies
To Roger Zelazny from Simon & Schuster- A coffin motor to keep him spinning in his grave
To Capclave 03 - A date with a hotel
To Buffy Summers - A mail order degree in school counseling
To Frodo Baggins - A jewelry box with a lock
To George Lucas - The Script to the original Star Wars inscribed with a note "Remember the magic? It wasn't in the special effects!"
To the high-tech industry - How about working on uncrashable computers and easy-to-use software instead of the next great gizmo?
To NESFA Press - An endless supply of paper for printing books
To Gene Wolfe - A translator to get his work to a wider audience.
To Robert Reed - A breakthrough novel that will get this critically acclaimed author the readership he deserves
To Judith Tarr - Additional fuel for that time machine she has to be using to write such detailed novels of ancient Egypt and elsewhere.
To Robert Jordan - A new idea - so he'll finally stop writing endless Wheel of Time novels that fail to advance the plot.
To David Gerrold - A new publisher whose name isn't pronounced the same as the bad aliens in his series the War against the Chtorr.
To Robert Louis Stevenson from Disney - A cool updating
The 11/1 First Friday in November at the Gillilands began with Lee G asking Lee S to strip and show the club how much weight he's lost. Lee Gilliland said, "It will add excitement to the meeting" but Prez Judy insisted that this be done after the meeting. There was speculation as to whether the two Lees could share the same pants.
The meeting began at 9:16. There was no old business. Do we have $211.91? Lee asked how much is that in rubles?" "How much do you want?" Bob said that WSFA Press sold a book and got a check from Amazon.
Alexis said that Ned Brooks sent me a tape he made from Disclave 1971 of 2001. Lee for activities said that Harry Potter is coming. A WSFA trip will see it in Bethesda on Saturday Nov 16. Pay in advance. Lee asked us to go ooh and ahh.
Mike Nelson for Capclave past said, "I'd like to thank everyone who attended. Our GOH, and everyone who worked on it. Thank you all." Bob said we took in $2,889.72. The hotel bill is paid, we have a few bills outstanding, not much. Capclave 2003 will get some of that <Sam rubbed his hands in anticipation>. Send the names of people who worked on Capclave." Keith wondered who pre-registered but was scared off by the sniper. Bob said just three.
Sam read off list of workers for Capclave 2003. Eric asked about what to do about the person who emailed asking for a snail address. Lee said we can use her house address. We get stuff for WSFA all the time. This was about the person who couldn't attend because the hotel said it only had one key to the handicap elevator going to the lower level of the mezzanine.
Alexis said that AOL sent something to John Pomeranz care of WSFA. He threw it out but John could have won 100 free hours.
Capclave Future? Lee said, "Oh sh!t. All I'm saying is that there is an October weekend that's Halloween..." Bob corrected her, "That's WFC"
This let Mike say, "This weekend is WFC so we've started selling memberships. $100 through March 15. WE should have flyers. The hotel info is up on our web site. The Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill $149 rooms. A Former Disclave Hotel. If you want to join the committee there is a discount."
Lee said, "This is WSFA, we fight about everything." John objected. "No we don't". "Yes we do" and a WSFA fight broke out. Elizabeth asked, "Can't we all get along."
Sam reminded Judy of the outreach committee. There were no new faces. No old business
Keith is still looking for March 94, Nov 96, and July 93 issues. Other than that, nine years on-line.
New business: Lee Strong wishes to donate SF in the name of WSFA. He'd like to give the Mary Riley Styles Public Library money to build a collection of SF videos and also give them a list of recommendations as opposed to MST3K style videos. He wishes to get official stickers on these videos saying gift of WSFA. Best part is, he'll pay for it and let WSFA reap the benefits. Motion seconded by many. Applause.
Mike moved to amend the motion doubling the amount. "You pay for it" John said.
Lee G. has run out of business cards. Alexis said that he'll reprint and give WSFA the bill.
Announcements: Lee said not to use toilet paper. Eric added, "Use the corncobs provided." John thanked the WSFAns who helped on Halloween. Birthdays include Lee S, Sam Lubell, Cathy, and the Gilliland anniversary. Lee revealed that he lost 61 pounds since April of last year. If found please return to...
Mike said that the notepad with good wishes to Charles Sheffield has been found. Peggy Rae brought them over. Lance is getting rid of booty from Prague. The current issue of Free Inquiry magazine has an article by Ellison. Scott Hofmann has successfully defended his master's thesis on Computer Graphics. Meeting unanimously adjourned 9:49.
Attendance: Prez Judy Kindell, Sec and 03 Chair Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust & 2004 Chair Lee Gilliland, Trust. Eric Jablow, Trust. Nicki Lynch, 2002 Chair Mike Nelson, Adrienne Ertman, Zabeth Gallagher, Alexis Gilliland, Cathy Green, Scott Hofmann, Jim Kling, Bill Lawhorn, Keith Lynch, Richard Lynch, Keith Marshall, Cat Meier, Walter Miles, Lance Oszko, John Pomeranz, Rebecca Prather, Judy and Sam Scheiner, George Shaner, Steven Smith, Victoria Smith, Lee Strong, Elizabeth Twitchell, Ivy Yap, Madeleine Yeh, Alla Lipetsker, Marc Gordon, Diana M Magyn.
Leonell C. Strong, III
Alexandria, Virginia 22311
Sunday 27 October 2002
Ms. Mary McMahon
Director of the Library
Mary Riley Stiles Public Library
Little Falls Road
Falls Church, Virginia
Dear Ms. McMahon:
This letter confirms our telephone conversation of yesterday. Enclosed please find my personal check #2951, dated today, in the amount of five hundred dollars ($500.00). This is a gift to the library for the purpose of purchasing science fiction and fantasy videos for the circulating collection.
I understand and accept the library policy on gifts. However, I ask that this gift be used to increase the library's circulating collection of science fictional and/or fantasy videos, either in VHS or DVD format. I recommend the purchase of the following videos as being of high quality and suitable for most audiences:
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Atlantis, the Lost Empire
Dark Crystal, The
Death Race 2000
Star Wars: 5 episodes
Starship Troopers (1997)
Magnificent World, the
Fifth Element, The
War of the Worlds, The
Independence Day (ID4)
This gift is given by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA), a nonprofit regional organization dedicated to enjoying science fiction and fantasy. I request that donor plaques state that these videos are "A gift of the Washington Science Fiction Association."
If you have any questions, please contact me at (703) 428-2297 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. most weekdays.
Leonell C. Strong, III
Alexandria, Virginia 22311
Sunday 15 December 2002
Ms. Mary McMahon
Director of the Library
Mary Riley Styles Public Library
Little Falls Road
Falls Church, Virginia
Dear Ms. McMahon:
This responds to your letter of 26 November 2002, requesting additional recommendations for science fiction and fantasy VHS or DVD videos to be added to the Mary Riley Styles circulating collection.
The Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) is pleased to recommend that following videos, divided into two groups, the first highly recommended and the second group also recommended. In making these suggestions, we understand and accept the library's policy on gifts. However, we believe that the recommended movies are of high quality, expressive of the broad range of science fiction and fantasy, and are generally suitable for most audiences.
7 Faces of Dr. Lao Fatherland
Dark City Gattaca
The Day The Earth Stood Still Metropolis (1926 remastered)
Battle Beyond The Stars The Mummy (1999)
Demolition Man The Mummy Returns
Escape From New York The Neverending Story
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Jurassic Park: 3 episodes Robocop (1987)
Krull Rollerball (1976)
We request that donor plaques state that these videos are "A gift of the Washington Science Fiction Association."
If you have any questions, please contact me at (703) 428-2297 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. most weekdays.
(Leonell C. Strong, III)
Paramount Pictures, 2002
I think that scriptwriter John Logan was channeling Star Wars Episode 2 when he cloned this cyberpunk yawner. The movie posters promise that this effort is this generation's final journey, and I frankly hope it is.
Our story begins promisingly enough when an assassination delivers the Romulan Star Empire into the hands of its oppressed Remen underclass. The sinister new Praetor invites the Enterprise-E to Romulus to discuss peace with his clone brother Jean-Luc Picard. Along the way, the crew goes joyriding on the Planet of the Low Budget Post-Apocalyptic Movies and picks up Data's brother, B-4. The Praetor reveals his plans to zap Earth with doubletalk radiation and everyone heads off to stop him in a remake of the 19th Century Battle of Lissa.
The rumor that a bad science fiction movie is automatically better than a good mainstream film is not true, and this clanger proves it. The special effects were very nice, and we learn more about the Romulans, but that's about it as far as this effort goes to provide an interesting story. The lighting and acting are consistently bad, the climax has plot holes big enough to fly the Enterprise thru, and the character development is heavily clichéd to say the least. You know Star Fleet is in deep trouble when the human toaster has to save the day in an act that defies previously established continuity, if not death.
In the Star Trek universe, technology trumps moral issues, but not good storytelling. I rate Star Trek: Nemesis as ««½ on the five star scale. -- LS
Warner Brothers, 2002
Everyone's favorite schoolboy returns in a high quality sequel to last year's most successful movie. This production includes a nice story about growing up, friendship, problem solving, and other hazards of being a teenager. And, yes, there's some magic in it as well.
Harry returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his second year of academia, second bout with Lord Voldemort, and second and third girlfriends. It proves to be a delightful romp combining several plot threads including scholarship among the all-too-human wizards, elitism and the responsibilities of power, and an exotic mystery. Harry and friends stumble around a lot but eventually put the clues together to unlock the Chamber of the title. Once again, courage and kindness prove to be more powerful than the exotic technology known as magic.
The Hogwarts team has maintained a high level of production, with great camera work, scenery, and special effects. We have a good, crackling story illuminated by both exotic effects and incidents as well as positive and negative human qualities. The human actors are almost all repeats from the first film, with a few new faces for variety including the self abasing house elf Doby, the egotistic poser Professor Lockhart, two or three new monsters, and a helpful flying car. In the best science fictional tradition, logic and an appreciation of "science" are the keys to success... and a wonderful time.
I rate Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as «««« on the five star scale. -- LS
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
"It's very good, ma'am." - Lee Strong to a lady debating seeing this quality Japanese fairy tale suitable for children of all ages and cultures.
And indeed it is. Young Chihiro doesn't want to move to a new town, and, at first, her fears seem justified when her parents wander into a Japanese fairyland where they are transformed into pigs. When she asks the terrifying spirits of the bathhouse of the gods for help, they seem terrified of her humanity and disposed to transform her into a side dish. Even the more helpful spirits are enigmatic monsters. However, Chihiro's spirit and courtesy win friends and unravel riddles as she explores her strange new world and the mysteries of human and divine hearts.
This magical tale of discovery and personal growth is perhaps not the most intellectually challenging tale ever told, but I found it charming for its color and beauty, vivid incident, and positive human qualities. Some viewers may have difficulty with the English subtitled Japanese language dialog and the Japanese cultural assumptions. Younger viewers may find the cartoon violence scary (although everything comes out right in the end). However, I found the effort richly rewarding. The anime style artwork and relatively simple plot are beautifully done, superbly evoking a magical realm with alien yet understandable rules. The characters - most of whom are bizarrely proportioned spirits and gods - are well realized and prove to be people after all. And, of course, Chihiro, like Dorothy Gale in a rather different fairyland, proves that courage and kindness are universal.
I rate Spirited Away as «««« on the five star scale. - LS
New Line Cinema/Wingnut Films, 2002
The Special Extended Edition adds about 30 minutes of story to the theatrical version plus a featurette on filming hobbits and a trailer for Episode 2. If you already own the theatrical version, this edition might not be worth full price, but is great on its own.
The additional footage is mostly small additions to theatrical version scenes, adding more depth in a number of places rather than whole new scenes or ideas. The largest new scene is an extended introduction to the Shire, hobbits, and their culture tied to Tolkien's own "On Hobbits" prologue. Most of the small adds are used to deepen the story in many places such as voicing the hobbits' concerns when they meet Aragorn, explaining how the Ring draws evil to it, and providing more material on the exotic locales of Moria and Lorien. One of the best adds fills out Gimli the Dwarf's affection for the Elf Queen Galadriel and the aid that the reclusive elves provide the Fellowship. Interestingly, at least two of the flaws in the theatrical version were corrected by better editing in this version. A good job all around, and a treat for the devotee of Tolkien and fantasy generally.
I rate The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Extended Edition) as ««««« on the five star scale. - LS
Walt Disney Pictures, 2002
An obvious remake aimed at the younger audience, but worthwhile none the less.
The plot is closely tied to the original story but set in a space fantasy universe of galactic sailing ships and breathable space known as the Etherium. A dying being hands rebellious Jim Hawkins a holo-map to a fabulous Treasure Planet, and he sets sail to find the loot and rescue his mother from poverty. The scurvy crew of pirates mutinies under the leadership of lovable rogue cyborg Long John Silver despite the efforts of straight arrow feline Captain Amelia and bumbling canine scientist Dr. Doppler. After various space fantasy adventures, the latter crash on the fabled planet where they have to fight off the pirates and the deadly traps guarding the wealth.
This film was nicely done if you ignore the fantasy science. The characters were well drawn in both senses of the term, and the action and pacing are very good. The internal logic of the movie is fairly good once you accept the devices being rationalized. Not IMHO as good as Disney's live action version, but an acceptable tip of the hat to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic story.
I rate Treasure Planet as ««« on the five star scale. -- LS
Lion's Gate Entertainment, 2002
This is a rather pathetic little exercise in bad science and bad acting, and we can only hope that the filmmakers were sucked into the entertainment void that they created.
Evil scientists and industrialists create an artificial black hole in an effort to develop a new energy source. A spunky cliché... I mean journalist uncovers the idea and the basic math mistakes that the high powered brain trust overlooked. She attempts to stop the disaster by sabotaging the wiring, but fails and the resulting black hole destroys a entire county in the ensuing suction and explosion. The film ends with an official cover-up of the disaster including the bad science, logical gaps, and wooden acting.
I rate The Void as «« on the five star scale. -- LS
Reviewed by P.J. Evanko and Lee Strong
"The only things worse than dragons are Americans." Right. And these Americans are about to flame this film.
Viewed strictly as an unusual post-apocalyptic action flick, this effort is not too bad. In 2008, long slumbering dragons erupt from the London Underground and incinerate the world for lunch. Twelve years later, both dragons and humans are about to become extinct. A small colony of Brits cower in a Northumberland castle with odd bits of technology hoping to survive until the ash-eating dragons die off first. Into this nightmare roll a contingent of Americans determined to take the fight to the beasts. Naturally, there's plenty of Anglo-American rivalry, romance and rugged bravery to complicate humanity's last ditch battle against the single male dragon and his harem.
That said, the problem is the utter lack of underlying logic. The dragons have sharp carnivorous teeth but allegedly eat ash... which is fine for plants, but not for very high energy animals. Their intelligence varies wildly from scene to scene. At one point, the daddy dragon conducts a major ambush and backtracks humans to their castle lair but in other scenes he can't count attackers. His harem is shown flying picturesquely over devastated London but disappear whenever their studmuffin needs a claw with the pesky humes. Not that the humans are much smarter. Although the dragons are described as clever, voracious hunters, the Brits illuminate their own castle with floodlights at night and farm the surface when they have the technology to create hidden, protected greenhouses. They don't hang a Taco Bell sign on the outside of their castle, but that's about the only stupid pet trick they miss. The Americans are at least more aggressive about fighting back, but you have to question their military tactics when their big dragonslaying technique consists on having parachutists fling nets over the aerial predators who are too stupid to dodge them. At least the daddy dragon improved the human gene pool when he wiped these bozos out in the big ambush scene that a Girl Guide could have spotted a mile down the road. There are other gaps in logic, but you get the idea even if the scriptwriter didn't.
We rate this Reign of Fire as «« on the five star scale for a cute concept spoiled by lack of logic. - PJE and LS
An appreciation by Colleen R. Cahill
The holiday season is upon us and instead of telling you about one great book, I thought I would clue you into a whole press of good reads. The New England Science Fiction Association or NESFA Press publishes two types of works: those that recognize the work of guests-of-honor at their convention Boskone, with a few Worldcons thrown in, and those that bring back to print classic science fiction works. Not only does this make some great works available again for new audiences to enjoy, but it makes a great shopping list, too. With prices ranging from four dollars to over 30 dollars, there is a wide range of items to choose from.
So lets talk about the books. For those interested in the classics there is The Best of James H. Schmitz brings nine stories and a complete bibliography of the author's works. Or perhaps you need the first American hardback edition of Norstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith. For fans of Smith's works, NESFA also offers The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith, which includes "The Dead Lady of Clown Town," and "Scanners Live in Vain". A favorite author of mine is Charles Harness and NESFA offers two collections of his work and a brand new title by this master, Cybele, with Bluebonnets. For hard science fiction fans, there are 3 volumes of Hal Clements' work, all listed as essential. The volumes a mix of short stories and novels and for anyone who reads Clement, these are essential.
More recent authors are not ignored by NESFA. There are 3 Lois McMaster Bujold items, including The Warriors Apprentice, a must for any Miles Vorkosigan fan as it is the first hardcover generally available edition of this work. Alternate history readers will want a copy of The Armor of Light, written by award-winning authors Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett. Set in Elizabethan England, there is a mix of history and magic, tempered with intrigues and mystery. George R.R. Martin's Quartet of four works includes the Hugo winning "Blood of the Dragon". Moon Dogs is a collection stories and essays by Michael Swanwick of which the title story received a Hugo nomination in 2001. If your shopping list needs a lighter touch, try Tom Holt's Expecting Beowulf, two of Holt's funniest books, Expecting Someone Taller and Who's Afraid of Beowulf? in a single volume.
While NESFA Press does not take web purchases, you can easily mail or fax the order form. The hardest part of this will be picking which titles you want from this great list. You are sure to find something here for many on your gift list and also find things to put on your own.
The 11/15 November Third Friday meeting began with meeting time as Bob banged the gavel. "Sheked Levakasha" said Eric to quiet everyone down (at least those in the audience who knew Hebrew). "It's 9:17 by my watch." "Yehaw!" came a cry from the peanut gallery. "Any pending business?" Lee G interrupted, "You are supposed to waive the minutes." Bob replied, "Since when do we follow Roberts Rules of Order?"
The treasurer then reported we have "$211.91" Lee said, to Erica, "Hand in your receipts." "Oh sh!t," said Erica. Lee said, "Oh well, you can always write it off as a tax deduction."
Capclave past was not present. Capclave future said there would be a flyer at Philcon and a table if things are settled by then. Lee, for future, announced her guest is Nick Pollotta who writes humorous fantasy and is "very funny in speeches." World fantasy was not here.
For the entertainment committee, Lee complained about her DSL connection. A technician went up to the attic and found 11 staples in the wiring, so she got new wiring and a free month. She has since discovered that 10 others had similar problem and someone was fired over this.
For Activities (actually it was cited as "that bloody committee you're running") Lee mentioned 1. Charles Sheffield's memorial service. 2. Harry Potter showing at UA Bethesda. Keith is looking for July 93 and March 94 journals. Bring food, donate money, Eric said austerely.
Fifth Friday, spend it with your family or go to Darkovercon. Book sale tabled until 03. No Dec switch.
Announcements included house rules, Lee offered Bob $500 to wear a corset to Rocky Horror on Saturday. Blue Moonstone in Hyattsville looking for people to run classes, meetings etc. Wiccan number theory wow. "My ex-husband would be spinning in his grave if he was dead," said Erica. Meeting adjourned 9:26 unanimously.
Attendance: Sec. and 03 Chair Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust & 2004 Chair Lee Gilliland, Trust Eric Jablow, Trust Nicki Lynch, Sheri Bell, Adrienne Ertman, Alexis Gilliland, Erica and Karl Ginter, Cathy Green, Dan Hoey, Jim Kling, Keith Lynch, Richard Lynch, Cat Meier, Lance Oszko, Evan Phillips, George Shaner, Steven Smith, William Squire, Michael Taylor, Elizabeth Twitchell, Ivy Yap, Paul & Aly Parsons, Gray Rinehart, Marilyn Mix, Dave Taylor, Mike Bartman, Diana M. Magn, Lisa Pickoff-White
"Golden Age of the Past and Future: the Changing Nature of Man's Search for Utopia and the Place of Science Fiction in the Myth" by John C. Wright, author of The Golden Age: A Romance of the Far Future
Thursday, Jan. 9th, 2003 11:30am-12:30pm
Dining Room A, 6th Floor, Library of Congress, Madison Building
Copies of Golden Age will be available for sale at the session and a book signing will follow the talk
by Lee Strong, Imperial Biographer
Steve Smith sat bolt upright in bed. The motion disturbed his wife, Kit, and she rolled over to ask, "Is something wrong?"
"No," Steve's voice held an odd note. "I just dreamed that I was the Emperor of the Universe. You and I were riding down Pennsylvania Avenue in an open limo while thousands of cheering people lined the streets."
Kit smiled. "And were you wearing pants? You usually aren't in such dreams."
"No, no pants, but that just made the people cheer louder." Steve missed Kit's arched eyebrow. He went on. "Just before the ride, I issued a decree banning all Scooby Doo cartoons and movies."
"A wise move, your majesty. No doubt that's why the people were cheering. And what about the death penalty for Hanna and Barbara for lowering the average human intelligence?"
"I commuted their sentence to life imprisonment on the island of St. Helena with no entertainment except their own cartoons."
"Mercy is a sign of a noble monarch. However, your majesty, you should get your royal rest. You have real work to do in the morning."
Steve sighed. "You're right." He laid down. "Still, it was fun while it lasted. I had just decided to settle the Middle East problems by putting rug dealers in charge of negotiating a settlement rather than politicians."
"Another wise move, your majesty. But, go to sleep. You have to write the software for the United Nations World Governance Program in the morning."
Steve Smith sat bolt upright in bed.
By Ted White
LITTLEBROOK #1, August 2002 (Jerry Kaufman and Suzanne Tompkins, editors & publishers; available for "the usual" (letters of comment, contributions, or fanzines in trade) or $2 a copy; 3522 N.E. 123rd St., Seattle WA 98125; e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jerry Kaufman and Suzanne Tompkins are well-known in fandom for their long-running genzine, Mainstream, the final issue of which appeared a few years ago. Mainstream, like entirely too many good genzines, had a publishing schedule which had deteriorated to one issue every several years or so - and it would not have surprised me if yet another issue was first rumored and then eventually appeared in another year or two.
Instead, Jerry and Suzle have launched a new smaller fanzine: "here's the plan for Littlebrook: smaller issues, a little more frequently published...." The first issue runs 12 pages, double-columned, and consists of three pieces. "Bewitched, Bothered and Bemildred" is Jerry's editorial column and includes, in additional to the usual editorial natter about the issue, four complete smaller articles/essays which remind me of what a good fanwriter Jerry has become over the years. Andy Hooper contributes "Sausage Time," subtitled "a column about contemporary fanzines." Hooper explains that since he stopped putting out a small frequent fanzine five years ago he's gradually lost contact with the current fanzine scene - and then provides insightful commentary on four current fanzines anyway. The issue finishes with a slightly augmented version of Moshe Feder's Guest of Honor speech at this year's Corflu (where the GoH's name is drawn from a hat and the Lucky Winner has a day to come up with his or her speech or presentation). Moshe proved himself equal to the challenge, as has always been the case with Corflu GoHs.
A surprisingly solid issue, despite consisting of only a dozen pages.
FLOSS! #2, May 2002 (Lilian Edwards, 39 Viewforth, Edinburgh EH10 4JE, Scotland; L.Edwards@ed.ac.uk, available by editorial whim, so ask)
Lilian Edwards has been putting out fanzines for around 20 years by now and has it down to a fine art. Floss! is the successor to Gloss, a fanzine which had managed three somewhat contentious issues. This issue focuses on British conventions, covering Damn Fine Con (a Memento-ish chronologically-reversed report by the eponymous Max), Helicon II (by Juliette Woods and, separately, by Tanya Brown), Novacon (by Tony Keen) and Corflu (by Randy Byers). In addition, Lilian contributes "Indefinite Articles" (a disguised editorial about the joys of the internet's Live Journal) and "I Went To IKEA" (where she did not find bliss), Jae Leslie Adams gives us "Barbie the Feminist," and there are four pages of letters. Floss! has 33 pages of single-columned text, illuminated by photos from the various conventions and cartoons by Dave Hicks, and a great (color) cover depicting a fannish version of the game Clue.
Floss! exemplifies the better, less formal, British fanzines of the day. It's full of in-jokes that depend on knowing who the people referred to are, but not to the point of obscurity - you can pick it up as you go along, and the spirited writing will ease that task.
John Barnes' The Sky So Big and Black (Tor 2002)
Reviewed by Samuel Lubell
John Barnes' The Sky So Big and Black isn't a Heinlein juvenile but it has much of the feel of one. The line, "Her Dad had a bad habit of telling his little girl the truth, too. Probably spoiled her for life" is very much a Heinlein idea. So too is the idea of a coming of age novel on a future Mars that is in the process of being terraformed. But Heinlein would not have developed the elaborate culture Barnes has created for this book.
There are three main characters. First is the first person shrink/cop who handled Teri's case before and is reviewing her recordings because she may be developing a new problem. The other two characters are Teri and her father who appear in these brain recordings. And why these brain recordings are necessary is slowly revealed.
Teri and her father are ecospectors who scout out water (and other things valuable to terraforming) on Mars. But it's a dying profession and her father wants her to go to school and get her full adult certification. Teri wants to stay an ecospector and marry her sweetheart. So there's lots of intrafamily drama here that, in the process, presents the whole society and the different ways people are living on Mars. There's also a danger. Earth is controlled by a computer program that runs in people's brains and this "One True" is trying to take over Mars as well. The program can be activated by saying "let override, let overwrite." Once that is done, the person becomes part of Resuna and no longer thinks for him/herself but just tries to spread this meme to others. It can be removed from a person but only at the expense of destroy his/her memories (hence the recording). This threat, however, is in the background for the first half of the novel, merely hinted here and there.
One of the best parts of the book is that this is not a girl saves the universe or even the planet novel. Teri changes and grows but makes no earthshattering discoveries. But it does deal with prejudice (Mars has genetically engineered altered humans who can survive on the surface of Mars without aid and Teri resents the way Mars has just given them control of large parts of the surface), education (children are monitored for emotional maturity before they can try to take their Full Adult certification), and identity. This is science fiction as speculation. Yes, exciting events and adventures happen and the characterization is solid and interesting but the world and its culture are always center stage. I recommend this novel very highly.