THE WASHINGTON SCIENCE FICTION ASSOCIATION'S OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER: FEBRUARY 1981. VOL.4 NO.9
MEETING OF JANUARY 2, 1981 (at Gilliland's)
Tom Schaad presiding.
The meeting was called to order at 9:20 PM.
The Treasury stood at $2,789.52
The minutes were approved as read.
The Journal for January was distributed.
Doll Gilliland reported that the Air and Space Museum would be showing: Forbidden Planet on January 30th and War of the Worlds on February 27th. Admission would be free.
MEMBERSHIP: No report.
DISCLAVE 81: No report.
No business was conducted.
Lee Smoire reported that the New Year's Eve Party, held at her house, was "very pleasant", she also admitted that she got sick after the party.
She also wanted us to know that there is no accent written on the final "e" of her surname...Moreover, she in the interests of a poker game, has the chips.
From another source: The NOVA segment aired under the title: "IT'S ABOUT TIME" purportedly a scientific-type program included a bit of pure Science Fiction (or Fantasy) when Isaac Asimov was shown aboard the Concorde.
(The Concorde is an airplane: Asimov would sooner walk.) Joe Mayhew is selling T-shirts for Robin Wood. There are three designs: A soaring pegasus, a unicolt, and a harper. All sell for $7.00 each.
*The moon Titan has an atmospheric pressure of 1,5000 [sic] on its surface. (sounds titanic.)
FIFTH FRIDAY PARTY: January 30th at KENT BLOOM'S
Go to the Air and Space Museum first for the free film ...then on to the party
Apple Susan is now a grad student at the University of Chicago.
*Dept of Dead Authors: George Washington University Alumni present an imaginary lecture by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Adjourned at 9:35.
MEETING OF JANUARY 16, 1981 (at Oliver's)
Tom Schaad presiding.
The meeting was called to order at 9:17 PM.
The minutes were approved as read.
The Treasury stood at $3,40.86. [sic]
PUBLICATIONS: Joe Mayhew will edit the February WSFA Journal.
DISCLAVE 81: Alexis Gilliland (81 chair) says there will be fliers at the next meeting. Mailing help needed.
ENTERTAINMENT: The movie at the Air and Space Museum will begin at 7:30. Get there early.
MEMBERSHIP: One new member joined at the previous meeting.
* The Gilliland's relatives from Tasmania were at the meeting. Alexis has sold a second book to Ballantine.
* Rosa had another Round-to-Robin letter (to Morgan and Jane Woodward who are in exile in Oaken Awa)
* Kent Bloom has maps to his house for the 5th Friday party.
* Joe Mayhew explained the cast on his right arm. It was illogical and...
* Jane Wagner had a new Fanzine out.
the meeting adjourned vehemently.
(The secretary was ill and absent, but she sent along her faithful ear, Noisette.)
$25 Attending; $10 Supporting
(Both prices include voting privileges for 1981, 1982 & 1983 World Fantasy Awards, as well as 1981 progress reports, program book and all other publications.)
Seventh World Fantasy Convention
c/o Dark Carnival SF&F Bookstore
2812 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley CA 94705
Call (415) 845-7757
[Mon-Sat. after 10:30 am; Sun. after 12 noon Pacific Time]
One from the vaults:
(From THE WSFA JOURNAL No. 82, September 1973.)
In China, dragons have been the symbol for the imperial state from the most ancient times. In Europe, by contrast, the legendary role of the dragon is that of the destroying monster, the plundering beast who sleeps fitfully on his pile of ill-gotten gold, dreaming of the inevitable dragon-slayer in twitching paranoia.
A thoughtful comparison shows that these versions are not in the least incompatible. Decoding Nordic mythology, the dragon is the old king who hoards his treasure hinstead of handing hit to heroes honoring their hservice. Hence the gold hoards the dragon guards grimly. From the young hero's point of view, what could an old fink like him do with a beautiful young chick, anyway? Hence the legends about dragons eating virgins. Dragons are notoriously cunning, and this fits to a "t" any king of that era who lived to be old.
The equation of Dragon equals State equals King, is also supported by the ruler's identification with the country he ruled. Louis XIV's "L'etat, c'est moi" was only the witty formulation of an old, old truth.
At the time the myths evolved, however, a king might be no more than the patriarch of a few families, who ruled a tiny domain out of harm's way. All that he needed was for a bardic poet to analogize him as a dragon, once he was safely slain. Naturally this would not displease his slayer, especially if the slayer were kin-folk. "Wal, Great-mothersuncle Olaf vere sort of a dragon at the end, you know. Dats vy Ay bane his bane."
The tradition that the successful hero is the last of a long line who died trying is also consistent with the view of the dragon-as-old-king which we espouse. In the process of growing old, a king may have to do a lot of killing, especially in Vikingland.
The use of the dragon-figure as a substitute for real kings is also in the best Aesopian tradition, where the weak and lowly (Aesop was a slave, remember?) make telling criticism and reveal dangerous truths about the great and lethal by the route of a harmless animal story. In later years, when the need for secrecy has gone, the key to the symbolism has been forgotten. You may be left with some pretty strange material.
Another point is that the hoard often took on a life of its own. The giant Fafner, once under the influence of the Nibelungen treasure, turned himself into a dragon better to guard it. This example is from Wagner, hut thematically, the hoard -- the great pile of glittering gold -- is always associated with dragons.
The cycle seems to be: Hero slays Dragon and wins hoard. As king he grows in strength and new won treasure, the Hero becomes King. As King he grows in cunning as age robs him of his strength, and to preserve his treasure he becomes, one scale at a time, a Dragon. Perhaps the turning point is when he slays his first Hero, some greedy hick from the hinterlands. He becomes finally a Dragon, full-fledged, and waits the sword of the Hero to start the cycle over again, with only the catalytic Hoard staying unchanged.
In a way it is a pity that so many of the bardic sagas are lost. On the other hand, to have them might reduce Grendl to a stock figure, derivative from a long line of ugly hairies, and Beowulf to a mere spear-carrier in a horde of heroes, all very much the same. (Besides which, we may consider that Sturgeon's Law is operative, and that 90% of the bardic sagas were crap.) Still, one regrets the loss of the good stuff, if only to remind us that the men of old were fully our equals in the use of language.
And where a poet of genius devoted his life to his muse, well (to drop into the ironic mode), whom have we had since the Beatles who could compare?
It is with some reservation that I recommend this book---and I definitely do recommend it---because, while as an exercise in middle-class mythmaking it is eminently successful, sensitive, cogent, its premises, scientific, musicological and sociological, are totally preposterous.
Here's the setup: there's a vast galactic empire ruled by a single individual, a la Roman Empire. There's a kid whose improvisational singing is such that it can instantly transform men's minds, move them to tears, show them their innermost beings, a la Orpheus. The plot (fragmentary and episodic, deriving, I think, from the novel's having first been conceived as Mikal's Songbird, a short story, and then expanded, from there) is subordinate: this novel really seeks to explore the nature of absolute power, of love, of evil. In every case it produces simplistic answers, answers which are either cliches plucked from the collective septic tank of literary commonplaces or brilliant crystallizations of archetypal truths. I'm not sure. At times I was convinced enough to be profoundly moved; at others I had to laugh at the clumsiness with which Card has striven to achieve transcendence.
How much you enjoy this novel, then, depends on how willing you are to accept its universe. Another reviewer (Dick Geiss I think) has said that the premises are unbelievable even as fantasy, let alone SF; I'd have to go along with that. And yet Songmaster is rare among SF novels in that it is striving to come to grips with fundamental truths. For me at least it is not entirely successful, either because of a vague WASPish insularity of cultural outlook, or simply by virtue of its erratic technique. And while no composer or musicologist could fail to be outraged by Card's monumental ignorance of the principles of music, it must also be said that Card's misapprehensions are fairly common among writers, and he can't really be blamed for taking over all the savage-breast-soothing cliche-ridden symbolism of music without bothering to rethink anything at all. After all, everyone else has done this.
Don't get me wrong. I recommend this novel to you very highly indeed. But for this year's Hugo I think I'll push Benford's Timescape and Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer.
I'm very suspicious of books about great artistic achievement or artistic sensitivity.
Orson Scott Card in his book Songmaster has invented a great artist, Ansset, a singer capable of distilling your emotions and singing them back at you, or of creating any level of any chosen emotion in you. He deals with Ansset learning to "be himself", with love and loyalty, with the suffering and painful acquisition of "knowledge" that takes place in an artist's life, with the fall of a person from the pinnacle to the pit, and with finally ]earning (to use a completely original phrase) "the meaning of life" and being thus freed, passing on.
This is a bullshit book by somebody who just knows he has a profound understanding of human emotions, realizes that he is an artist capable of deeper emotions than anybody else on the block, that beauty is perceived by the pure emotions after you short-circuit all that dumb intellect you have. Card sets up phony conflicts to perplex himself with. He tells himself he's making a myth that explains his craft and soul, hut myths contain unarguable truth and this does not. He makes Ansset very self-reflective throughout the book (like a vampire in the Hall of Mirrors, yeah). He hustles Ansset home to the Songhouse brimming with humility, a quality which Card imagines himself to possess. He's not humble enough to watch or listen to or to find out anything at all about us ordinary people. Gak.
Give me a hook full of lies that tells you a little truth. Give me Philip K. Dick or Barry N. Malzberg.
NORMAN SPINRAD ON FANDOM
(Extracted from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Interview with NORMAN SPINRAD by Robert Dahlin. January 2, 1981)
(Spinrad)...isn't put out so much for being ignored (by the national press), but because the work of science fiction writers in general is not acknowledged by the media as he feels it should be. In part to blame for the frivolous label attached to SF are the egregiously visible bands of fans, Spinrad believes. These are the groups done up in bizarre attire aid behavior that cluster together in frequent cons (science fiction conventions), people most likely at home with the "sci-fi" tag.
"Those two lonesome syllables, sci-fi, encapsulate everything that's bad about science fiction," Spinrad declares. "Sci-fi is a term coined by a fan years ago and it's a real pejorative, like nigger or kraut or wop is pejorative. Fans are only 5% of the total readership of science fiction. There are only 5000 to 10,000 of them in the whole world, but they're largely responsible for whatever weirdness lingers around science fiction. Fans don't exist like this in Europe."
Nevertheless, like many another science fiction writer, Spinrad visits
the cons to speak and socialize. "Those of us who write form
a community," he says. "It is tempting to go and see the
worshipers and this is the only avenue of publicity that's open to
us. The cons can be bad for writers, though, who come to think the
fans represent their readers. they don't."
Norman Spinrad is presently the President of SFWA, the graduate school of Fandom.
PROBABLY SOMEONE WILL WANT TO COMMENT
HEXACON is one of those little fannish gatherings which brings me back...every year. This year's Hexacon 3 was held m the Host Town in Lancaster, Pa, where Hexacon I was held. Hexacon 2 was scheduled for the Host Town but shortly before the con, the Host Town was partially burned out, and so the con was moved to scenic downtown Lancaster. What makes Hexacon a good con? There are for me, a variety of good cons - Balticon is big and bustling and busy with a variety of interesting activities, parties and never a dull moment - Disclave is the Anatefka of cons - PhilCon is becoming one of the best - But they are all big and busy. Hexacon is little and loose. The best attended function at the con didn't happen at the con. (What?) A dinner party was organized for the Plain & Fancy (or was that the Good & Plenty?) a Pennsylvania Dutch family style food orgy. They sat us down at their groaning boards and fed us home baked bread, applebutter, chicken salad, chow-chow, roast beef, fried chicken, german sausage, mashed potatoes, noodles, greenbeans, and god knows what else and two kinds of pie, rice pudding, and topped it all off with ice cream. Fans love to pig out. They did. They did. They did.
There was a small dealer's room, Mark Owings Film Program (the films you've never seen or heard of but wish you could find for your film program), A nice little art show, a low key program. The Guest of Honor was Jack L. Chalker, the fan GOH was Mark Owings, Mike Walsh ran the Huxters Room and I helped out in the Art Show and did the Auction (to my surprise without Jack Chalker, whom they had not scheduled to work because he was the GOH). WSFAns were very much in evidence. I shared a room with Walter Miles, Randy Brunk and an actual non-wsfan. If I mentioned those of us in attendance, I'd be duplicating a lot of the WSFA roster. Baltimore in 83 held a midnight swim and Bob Lovell was serenaded.
The 24 hour con suite was a nice feature. There were a few parties, but the hotel is such that the lobbies and recreation areas were OURS, and the need for gathering places away from the mundane was minimal. We were the only ones there. And that might be the best feature of the con. The mundanes are nice people, but sometimes they are offended or embarrassed or hostile. Better to have a little space to let fandom carry on - an asylum of sorts.
There is such a thing as Con Fandom. That is, people who are chiefly fans of getting away from it all with people they can understand or even like (or plot with, against, laugh at, tolerate, love, give back rubs to, whatever). These people would love Hexacon.
-- Joe Mayhew