The First Friday in August business session came to order at 9:15 p.m. 3 August 1990 in Chez Gilliland's conference room. Vicky Smith asked if President Tom Schaad would accept 9:16. Tom said that he was always open to a jump bid. Reality was altered accordingly.
The President asked if Secretary Lee Strong would like to read or otherwise refer to the minutes in some form or fashion. Lee stated that, in a bold innovation, he had distributed the latest WSFA Journal BEFORE the meeting started. Therefore, reading the minutes was unnecessary and he moved that reading be waived. Tom asked that all in favor actually wave the minutes. Waved overwhelmingly. Lee Smoire abstained by mental telepathy.
The President asked Treasurer Bob MacIntosh for a report. Bob said, "Hi, there!" When pressed for more fiscal detail, he allowed that we had 8589 dollars and a smudge in the Treasury. Mike Walsh detected an innovative method of avoiding an audit: smudging the books. Further explanation revealed that the value of the smudge was 25 cents.
Doll Gilliland, President of the Entertainment Committee, announced two events. First, this is the weekend of Family Con. Time travelers can still make it. Second, for your visual enjoyment, Martin Wooster, Mike Walsh and Kathi Overton are wearing Hawaiian beach shirts. In addition Steve Fetheroff's shorts are Hawaiian but we won't get into those. Someone suggested that the foursome form the Teenage Mutant Ninnie Beach Turtles.
Tom then asked if "Disclave Past or Present" had a new report. Covert Beach stated that the honoraria list had been repaired, and checks were being sent out. Check to see if you're on the check list. Tom stated that this was an appeal to practically everyone's sense of greed.
John Pomeranz, Chairfan of the Committee to Spend a Great Deal of Money on Something Incredibly Controversial and Expensive, reported that the Committee was being outpaced by the truth: the Archbishop of Atlanta had just been forced to resign due to an affair with a lay minister.
The Committee has been investing money in East European spy networks. (They're very inexpensive these days.) As a result, the Committee has learned that Saddam Hussein's recent invasion of Kuwait was, in fact, a mistake. Saddam I was really mad at Holland for beating out the Baghdad in 90 Worldcon bid. So, when he heard that KLM stopped in Kuwait, he couldn't wait and headed for Holland by what he thought was the shortest route. Naturally, he took 100,000 of his closest friends along for the party.
Therefore, the Committee will be buying "Mad Dog" Hussein his very own asfic, and a flashlight to find it with.
Old Business began with the drawing of the Marrakesh Moroccan dinner. Tom used a chip bowl instead of a hat. Doll Gilliland did the actual drawing despite Susan Cohen's comment that Alexis Gilliland was the artist and should do the drawing. The winner was Steve Stiles. The tickets will be mailed to the Stileses' last known address.
The Club then attempted to find a location for the Third Friday in August meeting. (The Bloom/Morman family will be visiting the 10th Century during August.) Alexis volunteered Chez Gilliland. Doll clutched. It was suggested that a sign be posted on the Bloom/Morman front door announcing that the third Friday was really a First Friday.
The question of a location for the Fifth Friday in August arose. Doll immediately said "No." Very firmly, I might add. Larry Baker suggested Peggy Rae Pavlat's place. In fact, remarked Larry, he intended to offer it for the Third Friday, but had been preempted by Alexis. After the usual chaos which passes for parliamentary discussion around here, the Club withdrew its acceptance of Chez Gilliland and accepted Peggy's Place for the Third Friday. And people wonder why the Secretary gets a little weird at times.
The acceptance of the Pavlat Palace for the Third Friday reopened the question of where to hold the Fifth Friday. No one had the nerve to ask Doll again. Someone suggested that the Stileses now owed the club one favor. Erica Van Dommelen pointed out that that stylish abode was inconveniently located in Randallstown, MD. Joe Mayhew moved that the President be empowered to negotiate for a location and to report to the club on the Third Friday. Tom said he already had The Power and that everyone should hang loose.
New Business: Mike Walsh stated that a new convention was haunting Providence, RI: Necon. The Fiends of H. P. Lovecraft were hungering for your wallet in order to erect a plaque in the library of Brown University in honor of the Master's one hundredth birthday. Mike moved that WSFA donate $25. Tom asked that all in favor raise hands or tentacles. All did. The Treasurer will coordinate with the late Mr. Walsh.
Joe Mayhew expressed pride that WSFA had contributed to another erection.
Martin Wooster announced that the Kuwait Worldcon bid was still active. However, the hotel was now the Sheridan Patton rather than the Sheraton Plaza.
Martin has been hired as the Senior Researcher for the Dun & Bradstreet Sesquicentennial. His salary is "Huge."
John Pomeranz is not in law school. There was an Ah of sadness.
Robyn Rissel is again employed. The Official People Manglers (OPM) hired him as a programmer/contractor for their retirement program.
Joe Mayhew performed his first duty as Library of Congress Recommending Officer for Science Fiction by recommending a dozen Hungarian science fiction authors.
Larry Baker has a friend. The club applauded. Said friend is a Peace Corps worker in Swaziland, a remote country next to South Africa, where there are few books available (not to mention anything else). If you have any surplus books, irrespective of genre, bring them to the next few WSFA meetings and they (the books) will be forwarded. Larry requests donations be limited to paperbacks to hold down mailing costs.
Terilee Edwards-Hewitt made two announcements. First, the Marion Barry trial jurors are sequestered in the Disclave hotel. There was a sting operation on the same floor as the jurors but they failed to notice anything. Someone asked if that meant the jurors didn't notice the sting or the Barry trial evidence. And some people think fans are weird.
Second, the July 1990 issue of The Dragon magazine published an article on RMS Titanic, a live action role playing game run by Terilee's group, Mage's Seal. "We're almost famous!" exults Terilee.
Brian Lewis clarified that the Barry jurors have been moved now that they're famous as well. Also, he has finally been promoted to the job that he has been doing for the last 6 months. "Happy New Year, Brian!"
Rachel Russell announced that one of Erica Lily's cats died.
Walter Miles has books for sale in competition with Mike Walsh.
Susan Cohen was fired. The club applauded. She is going back to school. John Pomeranz theorized that the Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy also applies to fannish jobs and schools. Since Susan is going to school, he won't be able to. Someone in the back of the room volunteered to leave school to make room for John. His legal career is saved.
Mike Walsh has books for sale in competition with Walter Miles.
Ed Emshwiller "Emsh" died on 26 August 1990. The Baltimore Sun article did not mention his career as a science fiction painter. Back to the ghetto, folks.
Jane Wagner introduced NESFA refugee Dale Farmer.
Lance Oszko observed that lots of activity was centering around the Secretary lately. Stalin started this way. Lance missed the little hint given in the July 1990 WSFA Journal staff block. Heh, heh, heh.
Alexis Gilliland stated that the current Secretary had a precedent. Former Secretary Don Miller took over a Journal only 4 pages long and ended up with a giant 134 page bound volume. Unfortunately, said 1974 volume was not published until a year after the events!
Erica Van Dommelen suggested that we chart the progress of the Journal as it conquers the world. See chart on this page.
Journalistic expert Doll Gilliland stated that "The writing in the Journal is sparkling, and that the club's compliments are due the Editor." The club applauded. Lee Strong found it hard to write and talk at the same time, but choked out "Thank you."
[Lee was also caught off guard since he was originally informed that not being burned at the stake was reward enough. Actual applause was rather overwhelming.
Tom asked for a motion to adjourn. Susan Cohen attempted to interrupt to state that the traditional announcement about announcements had been overlooked. Tom ruled her out of order. The business session unanimously adjourned at 9:45 p.m.
* WSFAns wishing to insure the accuracy of their announcements should submit them in writing to the Secretary after the meeting. We will not be thwarted by Tom pretending that he can't see Lee's hand waving in front of the Presidential face.
* The Publications Committee is pleased to announce that two people submitted to us after the meeting. It was good for us. Both times.
* Also following the meeting, Naomi Ronis appointed herself Distributor of The WSFA Journal. Who are we to argue?
Progress of The WSFA Journal's Plan to Conquer the Universe
Page Count --------------------------------- 14 * 12 10 8 * * 6 * 4 * 2 0 --------------------------------- May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Time (1990)
Analysis: If the trend line established by The WSFA Journal's expansion during 1990 to date continues, the Journal will reach a page count of 256 pages per month in early 2000 AD. However, if the surge in page count August-September 1990 establishes a new trend, growth will become geometric and the Journal will reach the 256 page size by 1992.
Analyst: Potiphar Breen, CPA.
The Third Friday in August meeting convened at 9:12 on 17 August 1990 in the Lower Level Conference Room of Peggy Rae Pavlat's Place. President Tom Schaad observed, "It's nice and cool down here." Things heated up after that.
Tom called for the Publications Committee report. Before long suffering Secretary Lee Strong could say anything, an unidentified yahoo moved that the report be waived. This motion passed at hyperspeed. Tom claimed that, "We're not all bozos on this bus!" A wave of nose honking swept the membership.
Treasurer Bob MacIntosh reported that we had $7567.23 in the Treasury. There were immediate calls for an audit and a party. The latter suggestion died for lack of a second. Tom acted on the first suggestion by asking Bob to account for the drop in funds since the previous report. Bob stated that Jack Chalker, de facto Chairfan of the De Facto WSFA Press Committee, had caused Mirage Press to bill WSFA $333 for printing costs. Tom asked for further details off line.
Dan Hoey reported that he was the de facto Sales Manager for WSFA Press. He sold 6 books for a total of $180. He is currently consolidating the unsold inventories of books.
The Entertainment Committee reported that they were busy. However, the project that they were busy at was insuring that Charles Gilliland had a good time at Worldcon. No one suggested any alternate use for Charles, who is, after all, an official Committee project.
Disclave Past is on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2 headed for Europe.
Disclave Present is on KLM headed for Europe.
Disclave Future is on the time-liner Jack Williamson headed for Europe.
John Pomeranz, Chairfan of the Committee to Spend Lots of Money on Something Incredibly Controversial and Expensive, is on a rowboat headed for Europe. Someone asked if John had any incredibly controversial and expensive projects underway. Someone else replied, "Law school."
The Trustees reported that elections for Chairfan of Disclave Future (1992) were barreling down on us. Two candidates had stepped forward with attitudes somewhere between resigned acceptance and gleeful enthusiasm. The presently announced candidates are Steve Fetheroff and Joe Mayhew. Both have displayed that requisite lack of sanity.
The First Call for Old Business produced no takers.
Tom Schaad made a proposal that had nothing to do with the Constitution. He proposed that the Club ask how the Chairfans of Disclave Past and Disclave Past Past how the money for publishing books by WSFA Press was spent. We have done this twice now. Therefore, it is a fine old WSFA tradition, and we need to get smart on how it's done. We need to document expenditures, revenue, inventory and other financial activities for future reference. The club generally agreed with this concept.
Tom went on to propose that the Treasurer send a formal request to the two chairfans for formal reports on book production including an itemized list of financial details. Tom proposed to transmit these documents to the Secretary by the 3rd Friday in October for publication in the November issue of The WSFA Journal. Awfully confident about yourself after abusing the Publications Committee earlier, aren't you, fellow?
During this exciting dissertation, Mike Walsh began whistling idly while Alexis Gilliland stuck his fingers in his ears and waggled. Alexis stated that Tom was making a big thing out of nothing. As President, he should just ask the two chairs to provide information and be done with it. The club accepted this without dissent.
Mike stated that he was working with the future Disclave Future WSFA Press Committee already, and he anticipated a request to the Club for money.
Tom stated that he would direct the Secretary to prepare letters to the two chairfans. You and what army, Big Shot?
In further New Business, Tom stated that he would not be at the First Friday meeting in September. Therefore, he will present the gavel to the Treasurer for presentation to the Vice President at that meeting.
Tom will be out of town visiting Anaheim, California. He will be negotiating for Disneyland, which has the fifth largest navy in the world, to join the naval "interdiction" of Iraq.
Tom states that Anaheim is not too different from Washington, D.C. Both have a Vice President Goofy, for example.
A Second Call for Old Business raised the issue of the Fifth Friday in August Party. Said party will be at Rebecca Prather's place at [address censored], Falls Church, Virginia. The location is just west of Seven Corners off Highway 50. Rebecca's phone number is 534-2274.
Rebecca has no coolers for the drinks and will need to find some. Larry Baker volunteered the Jack Heneghan Memorial Wash Tubs, presently on duty in Peggy's Place.
Steve Fetheroff got lucky. The club applauded raucously. He was at a yard sale where the "old gentleman" took him down in the basement. Chants of "Mungo! Mungo!" arose from the audience.
The "old gentleman" has been reading SF since the days of the original publication of Ralph 124C41+. He sold Steve Fantasy Press originals of Williamson and Heinlein for $5 each. He sold Steve an L. Ron Hubbard original for $3, which Steve recently resold for $200. He sold Steve the complete Lensmen and Skylark series, 1st edition Campbells and 2 signed Heinleins. Mike Walsh will be assessing their value later. Someone stated that Mike would then sell them to WSFAns for $1 each.
Steve said it was wonderful for him. Mike Zipser said he needed a cigarette.
Several people wanted to put a tracer in Steve's car so that he would lead them to the "old gentleman's" trove. Lee Strong noted that Steve already had a tracy in his car.
Mel Scharadin announced that classic folkart patterns were back in style.
Chuck Divine announced that he will be holding a party on 18 August 1990 for WSFAns and members of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Time travelers can still make the party. Fashionably late, of course!
Larry Baker is still collecting books for Swaziland and will continue collecting for several weeks. If Fetheroff were a TRUE FAN....
Abner Mintz announced that he attended Atlantacon and won farce place in the Pun Dungeon contest. Losers of this contest were, of course, severely punished. Also, today is his birthday.
Susan Cohen nonrecommended Eve's Rib. The author kicks the heroine and a batch of babies out of the spaceship hatch. The resulting cultural fiasco makes the case for literary birth control.
Lance Oszko announced that CNN was changing the name of their news show for the duration of the current Middle Eastern crisis. Henceforth, the news will be known as Iraq Around the Clock. The club groaned, and Tom asked all punsters to keep their gags in their mouths.
Lance also announced that Polish SF fans are sending a cultural development mission to America aboard the tall ship Iskra ["Spark"]. The Iskra will dock in New York City On 25 September. The display of Polish art will open 29-30 September.
Brian Lewis said something about a sport called football. It is apparently set in an alternate world since it involves American Indians "Redskins" battling medieval European knights "Steelers". For further details, ask Brian.
Joe Mayhew announced that a Lew Shiner hardback book was recently remaindered for about $2.25 in Greenbelt, MD. Joe is also giving proxima-puncture lessons. Proxima-puncture is similar to acupuncture but not as accurate.
Matt G. (Wild Card) Leger had three announcements. First, Wild Cards book 7, Dead Man's Hand, is recently out. See review on pages 9-10 of The WSFA Journal. Second, the Epic Comics version of Wild Cards just hit the stands today. This publication brings the Wild Cards universe back to its origins in superheroic pulp literature.
Third, Matt posed the question "Is there anyone else here besides me?" The holograms in the audience shouted "No!" in unison. Matt clarified that he was looking for someone with a Macintosh and a modem. He was giving away free communications software, including Prodigy, Q Link, and American On Line.
* After the business meeting, Matt foisted the Q Links on the WSFA Treasury, apparently thinking that Bob MacIntosh was almost a Macintosh. Bob immediately fobbed them off on the unsuspecting Secretary on the theory that the software was communications, and communications was the responsibility of the Publications Committee. We've still got them. WSFAns who want free Q Links should submit their applications to the Secretary.
Mike Walsh announced, first, that he had books for sale for $1 each. His inventory does not yet include any of the Fetheroff Find. Second, the Locus Readers' Poll named Father of Stones as the year's Best Novelette. The notes on publication properly gave priority to the WSFA Press, followed by Asimov's.
Secretary Lee Strong suffered further abuse when he attempted to make several announcements. Somebody who we will take care of later attempted to move adjournment while Lee was signaling for the floor. The President, Tom Schaad, finally allowed Lee to speak, stating, "He is the Secretary, after all, We should cut him some slack." Bob MacIntosh suggested that "Maybe we should just cut him." Susan Cohen suggested cuffing him. Responding to Susan's offer, Lee stated that something could be worked out later.
Finally allowed to speak, Lee announced that anyone who had any hope of their announcement being reported accurately should submit to the Secretary after the meeting. Tom noted that this merely offered a hope, not a promise.
Lee was collecting comments about Marion Barry. His personal favorite so far: "Marion Barry: He's ready to personally confiscate cocaine."
Lee also nonrecommended The Stone Dogs, by S&M Stirling, a real bow-wow of a book. Among other faults, the first 125 pages are completely worthless and Stirling's science is wrong. He moved L-5 to a point behind the Moon. It must be nice to be Ghod.
* Air travel on U.S. airlines will be more difficult for the duration of the Middle Eastern crisis. The airlines are contributing aircraft for the movement of troops. These aircraft will not be available for civilian flights.
Susan Cohen moved the meeting be adjourned. Tom called for the Ayes, of which there were a few. Matt called for the Nays. An overwhelmingly negative vote was heard, preventing adjournment of the meeting. Lee pointed out that Matt's call was not official. Tom called for any Nays. None being heard, the meeting unanimously adjourned at 9:46.
* After the meeting, three people submitted to the Publications Committee. It was good for us, although tiring. I bet you troublemakers don't get three submissions in one night.
* Following the meeting, Bob Oliver, former Treasurer of WSFA, became the first paid subscriber to The WSFA Journal.
Tired of the same old Memorial Day vacation?
Seen it all before?
Next year, visit Disclave 1991: a relaxacon and more!
Coming all too soon to the Washington area!
The WSFA Journal is the awesome newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA).
Vice Publisher..........Steve Smith
Editor in Chief..........Lee Strong
Sales Manager.........Bob MacIntosh
Subscriptions Manager.....Lee Shehr
Director of Advertising..Hi Penmore
Chief Counsel.......Kenneth Mundane
Innocent Victim........Marion Barry
To subscribe to The WSFA Journal, the voice of science fiction in the Washington area, call Lee Strong at (703) 756-0781 during the business day or Lee Shehr at (703) 671-3592 most evenings.
For those unfamiliar with the premise of the WILD CARDS series, a brief précis: Suppose, just suppose, that heroes and villains such as were portrayed in those old Saturday-morning matinee movie serials and in comic books really existed? What effects would their presence have on the major events of the past four-and-a-half decades: the McCarthy witch hunts, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the "Cold War," the hippie and civil-rights movements of 1968-69, the Watergate scandal, ad infinitum?
These were the questions that informed the DC Comics WATCHMEN miniseries a few years ago. These same questions got asked by a group of SF and fantasy authors, some established, some novices, at about the same time as WATCHMEN's creation, over at Bantam Books (now part of Bantam Doubleday Dell). The resulting literary gumbo, cooked up under the direction of (and stirred up a bit here and there by) George R. R. Martin as editor, resulted in the first book of the WILD CARDS shared-world series from Bantam's Spectra line. Titled simply WILD CARDS, Volume I established the basic premise as outlined above, the causal agent being an alien gene-altering virus (which comes to be known as "wild card" for its unpredictable and myriad effects, up to and including instant, usually grisly death--"the Black Queen") loosed on Earth in September 1946 as part of a heinous scheme to use Earth humanity as experimental guinea pigs.
DEAD MAN'S HAND, the seventh book in the series, continues the hard-edged, explicit tradition established by the earlier volumes while narrowing the series' focus a bit. Up to now, the action and point-of-view in each of the books has shifted among a plethora of characters throughout the course of the narrative. This one, however, centers on two: Daniel Brennan, the Vietnam vet who secretly operates as the only non-ace vigilante ("ace" being the series' term for the very few whom the virus has gifted with super-hero-type powers), the bowslinging Yeoman; and Jay "Popinjay" Ackroyd, whose wild card talent is to teleport (or "pop"--get it?) anyone far, far away instantly with a point of his finger.
The book's events take place concurrently with those of the immediately previous one, Volume VI: ACE IN THE HOLE, in which a psychotic hidden ace runs for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination at the Atlanta national convention, and he and two other equally deadly, equally psychotic aces turn what in our real universe was a convention virtually devoid of excitement into a bloodbath--and not in the merely political sense, either. The action of this latest book, however, is set mostly in Jokertown, the ghetto established in New York City (the site of the virus' release in '46) for "jokers," those whom the wild card has cursed with embarrassing or hideous deformities. As the story opens, a leading recurrent character in the series, Chrysalis, the enigmatic, transparent-skinned woman who owns and operates Jokertown's leading restaurant/bar/shady-deals-joint, the Crystal Palace, is brutally murdered. (This is not a spoiler; Chrysalis' death was first announced in ACE IN THE HOLE.) Yeoman is framed for the crime, and he and Ackroyd, working separately, track the real killer.
In the process, Ackroyd uncovers the sinister secret that Hiram "Fatman" Worchester, retired ace and owner of the Big Apple's trendiest upscale restaurant, Aces High, has been keeping for months: a Haitian wild card named Ti Malice has been controlling Hiram and a number of others with his hyper-addictive power, while using them to enjoy heightened sensory experiences by physically mounting their backs and tapping into their central nervous systems (á la Heinlein's Titan parasites in THE PUPPET MASTERS). Readers of the series' earlier volumes, of course, have known the secret since three books ago, when Ti Malice first appeared in Volume IV: ACES ABROAD; and **SPOILER WARNING: MAJOR PLOT ACTION REVEALED HERE** this is the book where the slimy bastard finally gets caught and stopped. The only other character whose comeuppance I've so eagerly awaited was Senator Gregg "Puppetman" Hartmann, the aforementioned psychotic hidden ace who at long, long last gets his, in spades (no pun intended), in ACE IN THE HOLE. John J. Miller, the WILD CARDS author who created Ti Malice, gets a nod from Ye Humble Reviewer for his masterful characterization.
Other supporting characters return in DEAD MAN'S HAND. Just to name a few: Jennifer "Wraith" Maloy, the beautiful, bikini-clad sneak thief who walks through walls and is Yeoman's lover/partner, has a major role; **SECOND SPOILER WARNING!** Thomas "Digger" Downs, the smarmy non-ace reporter who muckrakes for Aces! magazine, gets an amusing comeuppance of his own when he runs into a child ace with the power to shrink living beings to doll-size and gets mistakenly sent to Alaska in an airline pet box; and the man who is considered the father of all aces and jokers, the alien humanoid scientist Dr. Tachyon, is prominent as usual.
Like all its predecessors, DEAD MAN'S HAND kept me engrossed from first page to last, although I missed the multi-character focus of the earlier volumes somewhat. My only other quibble is that, since its events occur simultaneously with those in the last book, it does not advance the saga any closer to the present day than the fall of 1988. On the other hand, there is an authorial advantage in that, what with being able to write the characters into recent events with 20/20 hindsight.
Viewed overall, though, the book is a worthy addition to a series that you should definitely peruse, whether you are a fan of superheroes or just of imaginative, well-written speculative fiction. The entire series was recently re-released with all-new cover art, a testament to its success; and Epic Comics has just released the first volume of its own graphic-novel-format adaptation of the series, bringing it full circle back to its four-color roots.
And dare we hope, one day, for a WILD CARDS motion picture (or at least a cable miniseries) to be made by some visionary producer? I'm already doing the casting in my head now. Lessee now, Sam J. (FLASH GORDON) Jones can play Jack "Golden Boy" Braun, Raymond Burr can play Hiram, and Kim Basinger is Jennifer. Now if we can only get Harlan Ellison to play Tachyon...
RATING (No stars = Forget it;
1 star = Could be better;
2 stars = Average;
3 stars = Pretty good;
4 stars = Must read)
WILD CARDS VII: DEAD MAN'S HAND
--3 1/2 stars
"Imagine a boot smashing down on a human face ...
-- G. Orwell, 1984
What would you get if you combined Spartan social and military customs, Italian fascist organization, and Soviet economics? Well, in the real world, you'd get a bloody disaster, as current events in South Africa and the Soviet Union prove. In S. M. Stirling's imagination, however, you get an alternate world novel in which "the Snakes" of the Domination of Drakia systematically crush human freedom to the evident satisfaction of the author.
This is a thoroughly bad book. The literary values are bad. The morality is bad. And the science is bad. This multiple failing is understandable once you realize that Mr. Stirling is determined to have his hyper-Nazis win, and everything in his universe is perverted to that end. The ironic result denies both logic and drama.
Dogs is the third of three (so far) books based on the assumption that the defeated American Loyalists and Confederates emigrated to South Africa where they founded a racist superstate. Over the last 200 years, Drakia has ruthlessly conquered Earth and here wins their justly deserved final victory.
As literature, this effort is distinctly lacking. For example, the first 125 pages of this 522 page elephant is completely unnecessary to the story. Supposedly character development, this padding adds no insight to the central character whose persona undergoes changes only later. Mr. Stirling can be glad he is being paid by the word.
In spite of this elaborate development, Stirling's depiction of the struggle is hopelessly biased in favor of his Aryan superfolk. The "Snakes" are inhumanly superior to nonDrakians. Their achievements are awesome and their failings insignificant. By contrast, free men and women are depicted as bumbling, cowardly and self seeking. They are allowed to struggle only to add spice to the obviously inevitable "triumph of the will." Even when free men and women suffer unspeakable tortures and courageously sacrifice for the goal of freedom, their sacrifices are twisted around to insure the end of freedom. In the end, free men and women can only run away and hope that no sequels will abuse them further.
Ironically, Stirling overdoes the one sided nature of the conflict. Heroism is exclusively reserved for the Citizen "mastahs" and the "serfs" who support the system. However, with opponents so weak and uncertain, the Drakians can not display real heroism. The outcome is predictable from the beginning. Without suspense, only melodrama results. Kuwait could conquer the universe with odds rigged this badly.
Other literary flaws include unexplained events unconnected to the central premise. For example, the capital of the alternate United States is New York City. There is a U.S. Presidential election in 1947. (Hint: real world Presidents were elected in 1944 and 1948.) Why? No explanation is given. Stirling is not playing fair with his readers. He loves his Drakians too much to care.
The morality of the Drakian universe is frankly repellent. The Snakes flaunt their cruelty to others, their ruthlessness, their twisted sexuality, their treatment of human beings as disposable property and so on throughout the book. The author dwells in loving detail on the abuse of nonDrakians, especially women. And, the inferior races love it!
Once they get over their foolish Christian and neopagan moralities, of course.
Naturally, as kind masters, the Drakians devote their energies to making their serfs understand their position in the natural order of things: on the bottom ... in every sense of the word. If drugs and electroshock don't work, kill 'em off! The survivors will be more tractable.
At first glance, the Drakians seem to have a redeeming sexual equality. This is deceptive, however. Male Drakians are free to abuse serf women, while female Drakians are free to abuse, not males, but other women. Women are depicted doing glamorous things like managing estates and enjoying military combat. A glance at the population growth statistics thoughtfully provided by the author shows that the average Drakian female is really spending her time in a maternity hospital, however. In Mr. Stirling's universe, harems conveniently guard themselves.
And finally, the science is bad.
Stirling moves L-5 to a point behind Earth's Moon and the Martian plain of Hellas from its real world location in Mars' Southern Hemisphere to a new one astride Mars' Equator. As if Baltimore was relocated somewhere in Brazil! It's nice being Ghod!
The author painstaking devotes more than 50 pages to the "nonfictional" aspects of his alternate universe. But this mass of detail merely illustrates repeated blunders in biology, chemistry, classical literature, economics, geography, history, military science, physics, psychology ... and so on and on and on..... I can accept Mr. Stirling being Ghod. But, I just can't help wishing that Ghod were more rational.
It is only justice that the height of bad science are the opposed superweapons that mercifully conclude this work of unknown genre. In Stirling's world, all computers are hard-wired. Yet the Yankees infect Drakian "comps" with a 'compplague' which spreads throughout Drakia without a network to carry it! By contrast, the Stone Dogs plague of the title uses modulated microwaves to penetrate war shelters shielded against Electromagnetic Pulse and "activate" otherwise undetectable diseases which only magically infect political and military nonDrakian leaders, not civilians. The resulting madness assures the Drakian triumph. Like Alice's Red Queen, Mr. Stirling apparently believes six impossible things before breakfast.
John Norman can rest secure in retirement: the cause of Gor has been taken up by a new author.
The great tragedy of The Stone Dogs is that S. M. Stirling appears to have real talent. Unfortunately, he chooses to waste it ... glorifying Snakes.
[Reprinted from the 6/5/90 Family Circle]
JOAN WESTER ANDERSON thinks there are times kids should be neither seen nor heard.
HOMETOWN: Arlington Heights, Illinois.
FAMILY STATUS: Married; mother of 4 boys and 1 girl.
LATEST WORK: Teen Is a Four Letter Word: A Survival Guide for Parents (Betterway Publications)
A group of my neighbors gathered recently to say goodbye to a couple who were moving. We brought food and farewell gifts and settled down for a few hours of laughter and conversation. Our camaraderie was not to be, however, because one pair brought along their infant, who cried loudly all evening long. Did Mom and Dad take the baby home? Or even into another room so our eardrums could recover? They did not. The rest of us were disappointed but hardly surprised when the party ended early.
My college-age son worked extra hours so he could take his girlfriend to a posh restaurant. But their treat was marred by the presence of a "terrible two" at the next table. The child wailed and threw salt-shakers as her parents smiled benignly.
Has anyone else noticed that young children are turning up in places that used to be considered adult territory? Does anyone else find this trend perplexing and, at times, downright offensive?
As the mother of five, I'm hardly anti-family. Nor were my own kids especially angelic when small. Yes, we did tackle decent restaurants and even church services occasionally. (How, after all, are little ones to learn civilized behavior if they're never exposed to environments more challenging than a sandbox?) But if one of them created a din, I quickly hustled him out, in deference to my fellow human beings who presumably hoped to dine (or worship) in peace. Things have changed.
"You don't understand, Aunt Joanie." Patiently, a young niece-and recent mom-tries to enlighten me. "These are the children of two-career couples who leave them in day care all week, then want to spend every remaining minute together."
I think back to the toddler I encountered in a clothing store late Tuesday night in men's outerwear. He was weeping in exhausted gasps as his briefcase-toting parents debated the relative merits of wool versus corduroy. Was this the "quality time" I'd heard so much about?
My niece's theory about day care, I suspect, is only half-right, for what about the children turning up in corporate boardrooms? To some young parents, taking baby to the office is a solution to child-care woes. Co-workers who find the practice a monumental distraction don't complain for fear of being labeled "insensitive."
But this babies-everywhere phenomenon is not restricted to two-career couples. Beauty-salon personnel bemoan the invasion of tots into what was once a female's bastion of privacy and relaxation. I've given up trying to read in the library because of the preschoolers who run shrieking through the stacks while their moms and dads choose books or read elsewhere. The thought that their children aren't necessarily welcome everywhere seems not to concern these parents. Others just have to adjust.
But must we? Cooperation on both sides is needed. Parents should realize that:
* A toddler is not a miniature adult and cannot be expected to stay quiet or cooperative for more than a few minutes (less, if he's tired, hungry or stressed).
* Thus, it is more an act of love to protect this child from surroundings in which he cannot cope than to drag him everywhere in a quest for togetherness.
* When exposing a tot to adult settings as an occasional learning experience, it is not a sign of parental failure to remove said toddler should he turn obnoxious.
We innocent bystanders have a job to do, too. We can:
* Stop wimping out. People who'd like to enjoy a meal can insist that the management move noisemakers.
* Emphasize the adults only nature of certain invitations.
* Offer enthusiastic praise when we spot well-behaved tykes, and parents who are exercising common sense and concern for others. "Your children are darling--you're doing a great job" as we pass in a supermarket parking lot may be just the lift a tired parent needs to keep on keeping on. If the rest of us have the right to complain, we have a corresponding duty to affirm. In the long run, this may be the best way to protect everyone's territory.
What do you think? Address your letters to "Full Circle,"
The Library of Congress, which serves as the National Library of the United States of America, is now focusing long needed attention on its research archive of science fiction and related literature. Contrary to the popular notion that "every book ever published is in LC," our collection of science fiction has serious gaps in both retrospective and current publications of speculative fiction and related studies.
Senior Acquisition Librarian Joseph T. Mayhew has been appointed Recommending Officer for Science Fiction. He will be helping to develop a comprehensive collections policy for LC and to bring into focus exactly what is needed to give science fiction its full and proper place in America's national library.
In order to develop a canon of authors and works essential to a thorough research archive of world science fiction, Mr. Mayhew will be consulting with individuals and institutions of the science fiction community. The researchers, critics, publishers, editors, authors, societies, libraries and others able to help in this effort are encouraged to contact Mr. Mayhew. Any existing work in toward definition of essential works and authors of SF will be useful.
He is also soliciting help in the development of criteria for evaluating the research potential of current works of SF literature. The Library wants to explore sources of criticism, commentary, background, etc. as represented in specialty presses, trade publications, fanzines, academic publications and both formal and informal social organizations concerned with SF.
For the purposes of this program SF is intended to include all of the literature connected through publication, marketing, and classification patterns with the genre (speculative fiction, fantasy, etc.).
Information on new and forthcoming fiction and genre-related books and other publications is needed to make it possible to keep the collection current. It is Mr. Mayhew's hope to participate in a network of those interested in the development of SF. Information about existing organizations, publications and networks (computer and other format) would be most welcome. Please contact:
(home) (work) Joe Mayhew Joseph T. Mayhew [address censored] Science Fiction RO Greenbelt, MD 20770 Hispanic Acquisitions (E&G) Library of Congress Washington, DC 20540 (301) 474-2110 (202) 707-9478