The WSFA Journal, January 1987

The WSFA Journal



[Astronaut reading Journal]

VOL.10, NO.7

first friday minutes

Meeting of December 5, 1986 at Jack Heneghan and Elaine Normandy's, Vice President Alan Huff presiding, Secretary Erica Van Dommelen taking minutes. The meeting was called to order at 9:18. The minutes of the previous meeting were accepted as published. Treasurer Steve Smith reported $14,701.95 in the treasury.

Entertainment Committee: Call Dolly if you want to attend the Solstice dinner. Bring an ornament for the tree trimming at the Gillilands' Third Friday. Joe Hall has donated a slightly used tree stand to forestall future disasters.

No Disclave chairs were present.

Discon 3 also not present.

Old Business: None.

New Business: There will be a New Year's Eve party at Bob MacIntosh's.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:37.

third friday minutes

Meeting of December 19, 1986 at the Gillilands, President Michael Walsh presiding, Trustee Walter Miles taking minutes. Treasurer Steve Smith reported, via Walter Miles, that the treasury stood at $14,591.95

Entertainment Committee: Tree Trim tonight, Solstice Dinner tomorrow.

Discon 3: The next meeting will be January 24, 1986 [sic] at Jack Heneghan and Elaine Normandy's at 3 p.m. This is the incorporation meeting, so show up with your $35 fee.

Old Business: None.

New Business: Fifth Friday: tabled until the next meeting. Relaxicon: tabled until Third Friday.

Moved and passed that WSFA subscribe for one year, for $3, to Mary Hagen's The Mad Engineer.

Announcements: Happy Birthday to David Whitley Chalker.


Mary Hagen
Bloomington, IN 47401
812 332-8138


P.O. BOX 971



Scheduled Meeting of Saturday December 13, 1986 at Jack Heneghan's

ATTENDING: Joe Mayhew (Secretary) Kent Bloom (Chairman), Bob MacIntosh, Mike Walsh, Vicki Smith, Mark and Jul Owings, Dick Roepke, Jack Chalker, Eva Whitley and Alan Huff.

The meeting began officially at 3:00, although Kent Bloom had kindly done a preliminary reading of the proposed charter and bylaws for the DISCON corporation. Kent quickly re-read the proposed incorporation papers, describing them mostly as 'boiler-plate', and the by-laws which Kent cribbed from the best sources in fine fannish tradition. Jack Chalker objected to a section in the bylaws which would have dropped corporation members for non-attendance at meetings, with the result that the group voted to strike the offending passage. The remainder of the document was adopted unanimously. Copies will be made available before the next scheduled meeting. Barring heavy snows or similar trauma, the next meeting will be at Jack Heneghan's on January 24, 1987 at 3:00. At that meeting, the committee will vote in members for the DISCLAVE corporation. Fen who attend and come prepared to pay the initiation fee of $35.00 ($10.00 non-refundable dues and $25.00 assessments) will be eligible to be voted in as members of the corporation. When the members have been voted in, the 7 board members will be elected separately and by preferential ballot (if apt). The board will consist of three officers: Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, plus four other board members. Those wishing to become members of the corporation after this meeting will be voted in at regular meetings by the membership. The bylaws require regular dues and assessments for continued participation in the corporation. It must be noted that it will not be necessary to be a corporate member to work on the bid. The corporation will by votes of its membership and acts of its elected officers, make policy and administer the legal and institutional functions which must support the bid. The committee anticipates that it will need to reach far beyond the members of the corporation to put together the kind of bid which we hope will bring the WorldCon to DC in 1992.

Kent brought a flyer from the Orlando Bid, so far our only rival. The study group for a possible New York bid decided not to go for 1992, and as of the last word, site Philadelphia would like to bid has not broken ground.

As of the meeting, approximately 90 bid-support buttons had been sold. Lloyd & Yvonne Penney of Ontario being the first non-USA supporters. Alan Huff, having bought a bid-supporter button for his entire family, including his unborn child, added another category to the list. If you see Kate Terrell wearing two buttons, you'll know why.

Jack Heneghan gave Joe Mayhew a second key to the DISCON Post Office Box. The College Park branch boxes are only open on a restricted schedule, making access difficult for those who work during the day. It may be necessary to find a box where 24 hour access is possible.

book reviews

We're readers first. We'll be readers until we die. In the time between, we occupy ourselves in a myriad of ways. Some of us have sworn the oath of the renunciate, some still have x-wing fighters dangling as mobiles in the living room, a few wear pentacles about their necks and seek magic within the beltway, more take up the rattan sword and sally forth in Volkswagens and Toyotas for the glory of the East or Atlantia, and there is hardly a one of us who if faced by a poster emblazoned "The Federation Star Fleet is looking for a few good beings" would not look to see if an enlistment counter might be near by. We dream big. Others may hope for a house in Chevy Chase, a Porsche in the garage, and a key to the executive restroom. We chase after these things too, but our eyes ache for the light of aliens stars shining over homesteads built on worlds heretofore foreign to humankind. The sound of the most highly tuned motor is not half so sweet as the disharmonious music of a tardis, and who among us would choose to be a CEO for a Fortune 500 company if the alternative was to be the lowliest ensign of the Enterprise or a billet as crewmember of The Pride of Chanur.

Our dreams are fueled by the written word, sometimes assisted by television or movies to be sure, but it is in books that we find the firm footing we need to look upward and outward to the realms of wonder. There are never enough stepping stones for some of us. You find us loitering at the Moonstone Book Cellar and Tales from the White Hart. We've never found a used bookstore we didn't like. We circle like raptors over new book displays. Some of us venture forth from the confines of Anderson to Zelazny in our quest for books. I am one such and I would like to share with you what I've found. Not all of it will be attractive to every reader, but then a group which includes fans of authors from Robert Howard to Joanna Russ to Hal Clement is hardly one united in taste, only in our love for the written word of wonders.

Even the most insular of our membership have probably heard of the newest nova on the best seller lists: Tom Clancy. What some might not know though is that the level of his work is far above that normally seen in the popular thriller. In particular fans of the widely read subgenres in our realm of military science fiction and technophile science fiction will be delighted with Mr. Clancy's two novels.

The fans of Jerry Pournelle and Gordon Dickson will be happy to learn then that well done tales of derring-do with warriors commanding scientific marvels to aid their fight are the stock in trade of this mild-mannered insurance agent from Maryland. Clancy's battlefields in his two novels, The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising are not the high, cold reaches of outer space or the dusty plains of exotic worlds, but the ocean at our doorstep and Europe. The time is tomorrow, the enemy, the Soviet Union. It's been done before of course, notably General Sir John Hackett's The Third World War: August 1985, but there is all the difference in the world between Clancy's gripping vision of cat and mouse underneath the sea, and the dry technical details or the hackneyed, macho patriotism which is typical of these books. Clancy's first book, The Hunt for Red October, is the story of a Soviet submarine commander who decides to defect to the United States... with his vessel. The Kremlin is not amused and does all it can to stop him. At the same time, our side is trying to help him make it, without starting a shooting war in the process. Each chapter is a new and greater slice of tension as the characters maneuver their war machines, as wondrous as any star ship, in that monstrous game of hide and seek which is called battle. This is not another story where the technology is the hero and the people are cardboard puppets placed to press the necessary buttons. The miracles of steel and silicon can, and do, fail. It is the people of the tale which carry the burden of striving for success. That is not to say that his dramatis personae are sterling examples of characterization; they're not. What they are, though is a cut above the usual inhabitants of military novels, SF or otherwise, and it is this which lifts Red October, along with Clancy's deft execution of the plot, above the commonplace.

Mr. Clancy's second novel, Red Storm Rising, moves his central plot line of Soviet/American conflict to a larger canvas. The stakes are no longer a single Soviet submarine, and the avoidance of the Third World War, but the war which was escaped in his first novel now breaks out. Again, the first thing to strike the reader is the incredible detail which Clancy's put in his war. Mr. Clancy seems to have an intimate, knowing relationship with every piece of high-tech gear which NATO and the Warsaw Pact can bring against each other, not to mention he appears to be on speaking terms with the intelligence agencies on both sides. Like Michael Crichton at his best, the truly amazing thing is that the tremendous amount of technical jargon doesn't collapse the novel under its own weight. He avoids this though with the breakneck speed of a good story teller on a roll. Especially worth noting is that unlike so many books of this type, the good guys with their red, white and blue hats are not the only heroes: several of their Soviet counterparts play heroic roles. The plot, the story of a conventional Third World War, in which neither side is willing to roll the dice of nuclear armageddon is again well done and moves at a good clip. The novel's only major flaw is that little attention is paid to the possibility of full-scale nuclear war breaking out. In one way, Clancy is right to avoid the issue; Red Storm Rising is the story of a conventional, albeit highly augmented, military conflict; it's a war novel and a thriller. Skating on the thin ice of atomic destruction makes for a good story, unless you happen to live there as we do, but it's not the one that Clancy wanted to write. The only problem is that by not dealing with why this is a nonissue, it is harder to believe in his near future world and its war. Despite this, Clancy's success at merging believable people, with convincing science fiction-like armaments, and his slam-bang plot makes Red Storm Rising rise far above the usual mundane member of the New York Times best seller list.

               --Steven Vaughan-Nichols

John Shirley: ECLIPSE. Volume One of "A Song Called Youth" (Bluejay books: 1985) 338 pp, $8.95

In the year 2020, a limited thermonuclear exchange has left much of Europe in ruins. The wreckage is policed by the SA, a private agency putatively under the control of NATO and the United Nations. Actually the SA is a ruthless, technically sophisticated fascist organization led by a conspiracy of advertising/media corporations and a fundamentalist religious cult. Of course, they are planning to take over first Western Europe, then...? Growing is an armed movement called the "New Resistance", which has links to Israeli intelligence but is otherwise mostly autonomous. At this point, the NR is merely a nuisance, not a serious threat to the SA. Meanwhile, a Soviet blockade of an LE colony built by the UN and several corporations has intensified the already strained relations between two classes of colonists: the privileged executive "admins" and the underclass "technickis". The admins respond repressively to a protest strike by the technickis. A few dissident admins and technickis flee, joining the New Resistance. Back on Earth, the United States is in a severe economic depression caused by chaos in the International financial system. An Arab terrorist had exploded a nuclear device in space: the resulting electro-magnetic pulse wiped out all computer storage in the country, destroying the records of the credit/banking system. After that, things just kept getting worse.

The primary difficulty in assessing John Shirley's ECLIPSE is that only one-third has been published. Volume One is "A Song Called Youth", the title coming from the song sun by New Resistance partisan and hard-rocker Richard Rickenharp as he gives his final suicidal concert at the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. He is there to divert the EA from closing in on the rest of the fleeing New Resistance corps. Rickenharp's story is the most complete in the volume. Several other characters appear, do something significant and then die, but unavoidably much is left unresolved at the end of the book. However, what we do get is very good indeed, and I am curious to see what happens next. There are ideas underlying what Shirley is saying here, important and disquieting ideas that raise significant questions. And Shirley appears to be offering some quite controversial answers in response.

In the Fall/Winter 1986 issue of "Thrust", Shirley characterizes cyberpunk as possessing several distinguishing features, among which are:
          - an intensity of vision;
          - an emphasis on social issues;
          - a renewed respect for style;
          - a more intimate treatment of ideas.
Now, it's hard to think of any reason to object to things like that. Still, I suspect that Shirley wants to ascribe a manifest doctrine to his version of cyberpunk. His vision is not merely intense but also sharply focused. The emphasis is on taking positions regarding specific social issues, which are then to be promulgated rather than analyzed. Apparently ECLIPSE is meant to be definitive cyberpunk, since it certainly contains all these elements. Though I find it unclear what he means by "a more intimate treatment of ideas", I suppose that Shirley might be saying that ideas should be illustrated in action instead of having characters explaining in narrative why certain ideas motivate them. It's good that Shirley looks at ideas, not exclusively emotions, as factors that move people to act. On the other hand, he declares in the same article that "dinosaurian concepts" like "communist" and "capitalist" are something that the cyberpunk movement deliberately avoids. To be sure, the use of such terms as labels has led to a lot of distortion in their meanings, but that doesn't make them meaningless or insignificant. Shirley appears to be suggesting that there are fundamental similarities in social structures whose ideological development was based on contradictory principles. While that's undeniably true in part, it's also unimportant compared with the significance of the differences. The similarities are primarily functional in nature; the difference involve ideological concepts such as individual rights, justice and the proper limitations on the use of force in a social context. A printing press is basically the same regardless of the sociological structure of the culture in which it is operated. If the cyberpunks think that the books coming off the press are the same in communist and capitalist societies, they appear to lack experience in rational observation. Actually, you you don't even have to give it much thought - all you have to do is look around you, and not all that intensely. Unfortunately, an intense vision is often a very narrow one.

ECLIPSE has lots of drugs, rock and roll, sex and violence. And then the sex is heavily oriented toward sadomasochism. There is much colorful imagery, but unfortunately the color is predominantly purple, with a vivid, lurid day-glo vibrancy. Styles like three-row, color coded, mohawk hair-dos could catch on, of course. The real danger, however, is not the weird hairstyles or the drugs. Shirley so far is setting up a false dichotomy where only the bad guys seem to know what they're doing. The SA's alternative inevitably looks much too appealing, just as Social Darwinism's plausibility was enhanced by its seeming derivation from legitimate scientific observation. I am concerned that the cyberpunkies will confront us with choosing between themselves and the "fascists", the latter being anyone who opposes their whims. Anthony Burgess' A CLOCKWORK ORANGE illustrates the same dilemma. The Burgess novel is, in my opinion, classic cyberpunk. In ECLIPSE, Shirley presents us with a conflict not between Good and Evil but rather between Evil and an undefined, ambiguous Something Else. The SA are clearly the Bad Guys, but what of the New Resistance? Their expressed goal is to restore the status quot ante. The only shared value evident among the partisans is a common hatred of the SA. We are told what they are fighting against, but what they are for and why are not explained. We have been led down this path before. Of course, we've only just begun. Maybe Shirley is saving this material for later volumes. I doubt it, though. It's thought to find a positive outlook on life among the cyberpunks.

In the "Thrust" piece, Shirley accused critics of cyberpunk of cowardice, saying that they exhibit a fear of the new ideas and the elevated esthetic standard which the new style represents. I admire what he has done so far in ECLIPSE and I look forward to the continuation of the story. But I am not afraid to observe that though it's good stuff, it's not nearly so good as it thinks it is.

                  --Gerry Uba