A PUBLICATION OF THE WASHINGTON SCIENCE FICTION ASSOCIATION INC, WASHINGTON, DC
The regular First Friday in Januaryish 1992 business meeting convened at 9:18ish, on Friday 3 Januaryish, 1992.
Before the meeting began, Lee Uba told President Tom Schaad to speed things up. Jovially, Tom rejoined, "Not until I finish my bheer." Lee then wrote the slogan "Finish your bheer" on Tom's forehead. John Sapienza wanted to know if Tom would also eat his vegetables. Tom then opened the meeting "if we have no further comments from the peanut gallery."
Tom called on Secretary Lee Strong for the latest WSFA Journal. Lee presented the Januaryish 1992 issue, which has a great big heart and a ribbon flower on each cover. Mike Zipser pronounced Lee Strong to be a very, very dangerous man. Since the headline referred to the impending Van Dommelen-Ginter nuptials but the happy couple was at Arisia, Lee asked the club to keep the cover a secret. Rachel Russell admitted that this would be hard for her since she works with Erica daily. Well, keep it a secret as long as possible.
Treasurer Bob MacIntosh reported that the Treasury contained $8589.44. A motion to have a party was seconded but was mysteriously never voted on. Bob also announced that dues were due and payable. "New years happen," commented Alexis Gilliland.
Alexis, Chairfan of the Entertainment Committee reported that the Dow Jones Stock Index reached 3204 points following the Fed's [Federal Reserve Board's] lowering of the prime interest rate. However, the Committee advises people to watch out since us rates are now lower than historically low German and Japanese rates. This will suck all the money out of the us economy and the market will go to 2400. Robyn Rissell declared that he was not entertained by this prospect. <That depends on what you find entertaining. Heh, heh, heh.> There were also vague rumblings and mutterings in the room.
Peggy Rae Pavlat, Chairfan of Disclave Past (1991ish), reported doing a mailing to clear out the Austin/Shiner WSFA Press books. She expects to close the financial books by Februaryish.
Called upon to speak, Michael Walsh, Chairfan of Disclave Present (1992ish), went "Eke!" On calming down, he announced a full fledged Disclave meeting at Steve Smith's house on the Sunday following the Third Friday meeting. (You missed it.) Tom suggested that people show up the Friday following the Third Sunday to mess Mr. W up.
We have presold 55 Cadigan books for $1650.55. This money has been applied to production costs. We are mailing to book dealers to generate sales. We got a subscription list from the Science Fiction Eye.
Vice Chairfan Covert Beach demanded that people give him words or he'll make them up. (Hey! It works for me.)
John Sapienza, Disclave Registrar, announced that Registration was sliding back the cut off date for $20 registration. (You missed this one, too.)
Covert Beach, Chairfan of Disclave Future (1993ish), said, "No news is good news." Tom interpreted, "Then the negotiations with the Washington Convention Center still aren't complete? Too bad. Those skyboxes would make dandy party rooms."
The Fine Arts Committee was not present.
Under Old Business, Lee Uba announced that she had written directions to the Fifth Friday Party. However, her household currently has no phone owing to financial problems. Tom pointed out that people seldom attended Fifth Friday parties in order to use the phone. Lee commanded people to enjoy themselves or she would slug them. (I personally do not find this very enjoyable.) <Wimp.>
Paula Lewis reported that she had sent $100 worth of former library books to Bulgaria.
Tom yielded the gavel to Vice President Steve Smith in order to present an issue personally. Tom stated that we are printing our 4th book. This involves an awful lot of money. We need to examine the process and establish a separate set of books, accounts and reports. Ideally WSFA Press should fund itself rather than tapping the club Treasury periodically.
Alexis stated out that the President could just make the proposed changes by executive fiat. Joe Mayhew pointed out that there is an established mechanism called the Publications Committee. Members are appointed by the President, except for the Secretary, who is a member ex officio [by virtue of his office]. Lee Uba also suggested that the issue be referred to the existing Publications Committee.
Beth Zipser noted that The WSFA Journal and the annual WSFA Press book were both club publications. However, the minimal budget Journal might not be suitable for a relatively big budget press operation.
Tom agreed that the Publications Committee might be the appropriate forum. We need people who are interested. Alexis stated that the Treasurer and the Secretary should be on whatever panel. Joe asked Bob to read the constitutional article governing Publications. Bob did so. WSFA's constitution gives the Publications Committee authority over all WSFA publications, regardless of budget or format.
Lee Uba moved that a Special Publications Committee be established to investigate the issues and report. Alexis objected that we don't need a motion; the President can just do it. Tom stated that he would prefer a mandate from the club on an issue this far reaching.
Joe stated that the issue was a transfer of authority from Disclave to WSFA. Bob noted that our title is already WSFA Press, as opposed to Disclave Press. George Shaner suggested that cash flow was the main concern. Tom advised that he saw lots of issues, and again suggested that the issue go to a committee which would come back to the club with a proposal.
Winston suggested that past, present and future Disclave Chairs be members of the projected committee. Walter Miles suggested that we had a consensus on the next step, and that we should appoint a committee and move on.
Joe suggested two alternate forums. The issue could be referred to the Executive Board, or to a special panel or working group appointed by Tom.
Michael Walsh acknowledged that he had started this mess and opined that the separate accounts concept would be real handy. Publishing books cost a lot. As far as the details went "I don't care".
Lee Uba then withdrew her motion. Matt Leger asked if we were just going through the motions.
Tom then moved that the President be authorized to appoint additional members to the Publications Committee for the purpose of investigating the idea of a separate book fund and making recommendations to the club. After a moment or two of parliamentary chaos, Steve ruled that this motion had been adopted by a voice vote. The club applauded itself. Speaking alternately, Mike Zipser and Alexis told Tom, "You have the power. Use it wisely."
Steve then returned the gavel to Tom, who announced that the committee would meet after the regular meeting. He tasked the Secretary to preside and report at the next meeting when a final report would be made. Yassa, boss.
There was no other New Business conducted.
Maureen Rydell, George Nelson and Tom Nelson are visiting WSFA for the first time. The latter two individuals admitted to being clones of Mike Nelson. Someone attempted to reassure our visitors that we're not really this bad all the time. <No. But, with a little effort, we could be!>
No one was visiting for their second time. Steve claimed to be visiting for his third time. Tom clarified that Steve was now no longer sentient.
Secretary Lee Strong announced that we have adequate supplies of the WSFA First Contact List (C), directions to Lee Uba's house, copies of the special Doll Gilliland Memorial Issue of TWJ, and the latest hearts & flowers issue of TWJ.
Lee also invited those who wish their announcements to appear in their own words to submit, on paper, to the Secretary after the meeting. Mike Zipser asked if Lee would be submitting to himself in paper. Lee replied that he usually wore pajamas rather than paper. Michael claimed that Lee wore latex pajamas. Rowdie Yates corrected Michael, saying that the little latex garments were not pajamas.
* After the meeting, one person submitted, on paper, to the Secretary. It was good for us.
A bemused John Sapienza announced that the year got started off right.
Lee Uba repeated her invitation to the Fifth Friday party for people who came in late, and wished everyone good luck finding the place.
Mike announced that the Zipsers had gotten the Januaryish schedule for Mystery Science Theater 3000 on the Comedy Channel.
Rebecca Prather announced that she was selling a 1968ish Dodge Dart. Joe asked if she would sell it for $1.98. (No.)
Paula Lewis and Rebecca announced that Mensa was having a Star Trek benefit item sale in Wheaton. It benefits the Jonathan Levie Scholarship Fund.
Matt Leger asked if there would be a Doll Gilliland Scholarship Fund? Alexis replied No.
Matt would like to attend Star Trek VI with someone, preferably with someone who has not seen it yet.
Christine Valada and Len Wein were married on Christmas Day. Len was formerly employed by the Disney organization.
Dick Lynch has a new fan publication Mimosa at $2/issue.
Michael had the inevitable commercial for books in a box.
Joe announced that he did not have books for sale.
Tom announced that the Smithsonian was doing a lot of Star Trek stuff in Februaryish. The 2 Januaryish 1992ish issue of The Washington Post listed their schedule. The Associates are also doing lots of literary stuff. (Apparently, Star Trek is not considered "literary".)
The club adjourned without dissent at 10:00 sharpish.
The regular Third Friday in Januaryish meeting convened at 9:15,
17 Januaryish 1992ish in the Mew of the Pink Pigasus. Tom Schaad,
President of WSFA, delayed the start of the meeting so that a chair
could be provided for Secretary Lee Strong
who is a prima donna
whose feet were hurting.
Tom asked Lee for the minutes of the last meeting. Lee admitted that he did not have a written copy and asked if Tom wanted him to recite them from memory. Tom shuddered, and suggested the reading be waived. Waiver was approved many to one, Perrianne Lurie dissenting.
Treasurer Bob MacIntosh reported that we have $8060.45 in the Treasury. There was a cry, "Let's have a party!" The staff of Disclave 1992 hollered back, "We're working on it!"
Alexis Gilliland, Chairfan of the Entertainment Committee, reported having another molar removed. Rowdie Yates claimed, "You're sick!" Alexis went into details about the dental assistant going, "Uhhh! Gross!" and the receptionist not understanding the dentist's handwriting on the bill. Joe Mayhew joked that Alexis had failed as Committee Chair since we were not entertained. He should have tied a string around a doorknob at a WSFA meeting so that we could all watch.
Lance Oszko, Chairfan of the Fine Arts Committee, announced that his committee will sponsor a slide show at the First Friday meeting in Februaryish. This will show WSFAns the art which is being collected.
Peggy Rae Pavlat, Chairfan of Disclave Past and Vice Chairfan of Confrancisco, is in California. Please see Dan Hoey's Announcement on page 7.
Called upon for a report, Michael Walsh, Chairfan of Disclave Present, went, "Aargh! Aargh, matey!" Tom asked if that was a good aargh or a bad aargh. Michael stated that there would be a Disclave meeting at Steve Smith's. Extra time will be required for Steve to clear out enough space for a meeting. Come at oneish; twelvish if you bring a backhoe. As to where Steve lives, he lives near the former Bloom/Morman residence. Look him up in the phonebook and call for details. There are only 52 Steve Smiths in the phonebook. Big book.
Tom asked if Michael has scheduled a walk-thru thru the hotel spaces yet. The Chairfan reported that he will be back in town during the first week in Februaryish and hopes to do it then. Until then, he will be in Manhattan spending other people's money. Tom asked, "Is that a report or a brag?" Yes.
Covert Beach, Chairfan of Disclave Future, didn't get much done due to his adventure in exercise.
Tom then called on Lee Strong to report on the discussions of the expanded Publications Committee on the idea of a separate book fund. Lee reported the committee agreed that the idea would benefit the club. It would make tracking the books and our money easier. The Treasurer can run both the regular and book fund accounts. The committee is still discussing the best structure for WSFA Press and its relationship to Disclave. Lee planned to hold another committee meeting after the regular business meeting (but that did not materialize). Lee expected the entire matter to be wrapped up before Disclave. Lee carefully did not say which Disclave.
Tom called for Old Business. A hush fell over the crowd. But no Old Business materialized.
Tom attempted to call for New Business. Lee Uba attempted to remind Tom of the New Tradition. Tom pointed out that we now have a THIRD New Tradition, & traced the logic for the Vice president. For a brief, shining moment, it made sense.
Tom then called for people who were visiting the club for the first, second or third time to introduce themselves. Gary Romain, Alex ______ and Tim ______ were visiting for their first time each.
Dan Lofland announced that he was visiting for the second time. Host Dan Burgess stated that we needed more Dans. Someone suggested we invite Dan Quayle. This set off a flurry of Dan jokes. Some of them were pretty Dan good, but things were Danhill after a while.
No one would admit to visiting WSFA for their third time.
Bill Mayhew announced that his mythomania was completely cured. Tom retorted that that was illegal in Virginia. Joe Mayhew clarified that the meeting was being held in Maryland.
Rachel Russell asked that the regular order of business be suspended so that the club could return to New Business in order to discuss an incident of sexual harassment at a previous WSFA meeting. There was no objection and the club returned to New Business.
Discussion on the matter was lengthy and quite emotional. After giving all members an opportunity to speak and hearing all points of view, President Schaad summarized, "There is a sense within WSFA that uninvited inappropriate physical contact is not welcome."
There was no objection to this statement of official club policy.
Dan Burgess then moved that discussion on this and related matters be tabled indefinitely. The motion was seconded and approved. Three people abstained on the vote to table; otherwise all were in favor.
The club then returned to Announcements by unanimous consent.
Susan Cohen stated that a Chicago based institution was claiming to make "Hugo" awards. This is not the true Hugo organization and steps should be taken thru proper channels. Tom Schaad advised that NESFA knows the proper channels and will work this issue.
Lee Uba reminded everyone that the Fifth Friday party will be at her place. Unfortunately, she has no additional sets of directions to the location. Lee Strong piped up that the Publications Committee did have some extra copies. The club members applauded.
Dan Hoey announced that Terry Biffel, Chairfan of Confrancisco, died 8 days previously [9 Januaryish 1992ish] from cancer. Peggy Rae Pavlat is at a Confrancisco staff meeting discussing this sad event and its impact on the planned worldcon. Terry will be missed.
Elspeth Kovar read an announcement from Terilee Edwards-Hewitt that a model UN Security Council roleplaying game will meet on 25 Januaryish. This was previously published in, ahem, the worlds' best informed newsletter, The WSFA Journal.
Michael Walsh announced that he had boxes for sale, cheap. Spider Robinson's new book, Starsong, is out. Author Jonathan Carroll will be at Metro Center, reading & signing stuff. Hearing this, Alexis Gilliland went wild.
Michael also suggested that WSFA offer its official condolences to Confrancisco. Hearing no objection, Tom authorized Dan Hoey to send our condolences. Dan might co-opt Peggy Rae to assist.
Perrianne Lurie is running the Disclave 1992 program book. She is looking for aspiring authors. The deadline is 1 Marchish 1992ish (unless the copy is ready-to-go). She is also looking for volunteers for the Balticon Green Room. A Green Room head for another con offered to volunteer for hers if she volunteered for his. The battle of the greenheads was deferred until after the business meeting.
Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World is showing at the K-B paris Cinema, 5300 Wisconsin Avenue, Washington, D. C. It is science fictional and received 2 rave reviews by The Washington Post, the newsletter of Washington political fiction.
Dan Burgess is looking for a new housemate.
* Dan also announced a Mew of the Pink Pigasus house rule: Do NOT close the door in any downstairs hallway. The closet is the feline refresher. Unless you'd like to clean it up, leave it OPEN.
* Dan's birthday was 15 Januaryish. Happy birthday from the readers and staff of The WSFA Journal.
Dick Roepke announced the existence of the Wargames Depot, Rhode Island Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland.
Naomi Ronis announced a SF showing at the Worlds of Wonder art gallery from 3 Januaryish to 22 Februaryish. There was also a reception on 24 Januaryish.
Michael Walsh announced that his brain had turned to mush. <And no one disagreed!> He received a message from Pat Cadigan who received an inquiry from Tom Canty. Tom read that he was the Art GOH for Disclave in Locus. Was he? This produced a chorus of laughter and a suggestion that a new position, Almost Art GOH, be created for Tom. If enacted, the Almost Art GOH would be entitled to wear a button reading, "But, I thought...."
Lance Oszko asked if rates for Disclave were going up? The D. C. chapter of Siggraph is coming to Disclave.
Dan Burgess announced more mushy brains. Disclave rates will go up tonight. This is New Year's Eve.
Perrianne announced even more mushy brains. She is taking applications for a roommate. Tom Schaad plugged the Disclave program book. He must have gotten his article written and accepted.
The business meeting then unanimously adjourned at 10:27.
* Brian C. Lewis, formerly of Bristlecone Way, Germantown, Maryland, has moved to [censored], Apartment # 14, Fairfax, Virginia 22030-7828. His new telephone number is (703) 222-7391.
* Before the First Friday in Januaryish meeting, Chuck Devine claimed that his name was misspelled on the WSFA First Contact List (c). Lee Strong advised him that the previously established policy of the club was for Chuck to change his name to match the minutes. Therefore, Chuck will now be known as Chuck Divine. Similarly, the Chairfan of Disclave 1991 will be known as Peggy Rae Pavlat, and the fiancee of Steve Smith will be known as Kit Mason, since these are the names used in this issue of the minutes. Sorry, folks, but policy is policy.
The WSFA Journal is the official newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA), Inc. WSFA, the WSFA First Contact List, Disclave, and DisCave are copyrights and/or trademarks of WSFA, Inc.
President ............... Tom Schaad
Vice President ...
... Steve Smith #52
Secretary ............ Lee Strong #3
Treasurer ............ Bob MacIntosh
Dan Burgess, Danny Dunn, Dan Hoey, Dan Lofland, Dan Jer Mouse, Dan Quayle, Dan Rather, Captain Dan Solo, Dan Tanna, Dan Waggon
Editor-in-Chief ......... Lee Strong
Business Reporter ...
Interstellar Reporter ...
... Intrepid Captain Stan Holo
Paranoia Reporter ...
... Harrison Fnord
Paranoid .............. Oliver Stone
Sports Reporter ....... Alex Furlong
Travel Editor ......... Sue Doh Nimh
Copy Boy ...
... William W. Williams, III
REVENUE, 1991 -------------------------------- Dues Collected, for 1991........... $ 310.00 for 1992........... 30.00 Interest.............. 263.64 Book Revenues, 1991: Shepherd Book....... 779.62 Resnick Book........ 788.00 Shiner Book......... 450.00 Cadigan Book........ 799.55 Disclave 1990......... 1,471.10 Disclave 1991......... 5,000.00 Hot Dog Revenue....... 2.00 -------- Total Revenue $9.893.91 -------------------------------- EXPENSES, 1991 -------------------------------- First Fridays......... $1,105.98 Third Fridays......... 1,330.81 Fifth Fridays......... 271.63 4th of July Picnic.... 155.24 Disclave 1991 Advance... 3000.00 Book Expenses, 1991: Shepherd Book.......... 45.00 Resnick Book........... 95.60 Cadigan Book........ 1,438.54 Lawyer's Expense.......... 27.50 Storage Area.......... 1,155.00 Insurance................ 490.00 Fine Arts Committee.... 10.45 -------- Total Expenses $9,125.65 -------------------------------- 1991 Balance $ 768.26 -------------------------------- * ** *** ** * Shepherd Book, End of 1991: Income from Book... ...$14,143.25 Revenue from Unsold Books... ...840.00 -------------------------------- Total S. B. Revenue $14,983.25 -------------------------------- Copyright Expense..... $ 20.00 Typesetting (C. S. Graphics)... ...4,879.25 Binding (Thomson-Shure)... ...6,977.65 Postage................. 395.63 Royalties: J. K. Potter...200.00 L. Shepherd....300.00 Return of Overpayment..... 45.00 Flyer Printings........... 83.58 Editor Expenses.......... 945.84 -------------------------------- Total S. B. Expenses $13,846.95 S. B. Proceeds to Date $296.30 -------------------------------- * ** *** ** * Resnick Book, End of 1991: ------------------------- Income From Book...... $3,503.00 Revenue from Unsold Books... ...6,832.00 -------------------------------- Total R. B. Revenue $10,335.00 -------------------------------- Typesetting (Mirage)... $ 333.53 Binding (Thomson-Shure)... ...3,102.16 Postage................... 95.00 Royalties: T. Hamilton... 500.00 M. Resnick.. 1,750.00 Editor Expenses........... 41.31 -------------------------------- Total R. B. Expenses.. $5,822.60 R. B. Proceeds (Deficit) to Date -------------------------------- .....($1,319.60) * ** *** ** * Cadigan Book, End of 1991: ------------------------- Income from Book (Pre-Sales)... ... $ 799.55 -------------------------------- Total C. B. Revenue $ 799.55 -------------------------------- Flyers................ $ 73.54 Art Work Preparation... 1,365.00 Total C. B. Expenses.. $ 1438.54 C. B. Proceeds (Deficit) to Date ...($ 638.99)
The Milky Way appears to be a far more violent and crowded place than previously believed.
After five years of peering through the Milky Way, university of Calgary astronomer Russell Taylor found twice as many dead stars in the galaxy as the maps of the heavens currently show.
The finding is considered a breakthrough and will almost certainly necessitate redrawing the map of the galaxy, Mr. Taylor said. He also believes that research may oblige theorists to reconsider how stars are born and how they die. It also means that the chance of stars exploding into supernovas is probably twice as great in the Milky Way as previously known. However, this does not significantly raise the risk of Earth being affected by one.
Mr. Taylor, who teamed up with US astronomer Miller Goss, made the findings after the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in The Netherlands was equipped with low frequency radio receivers. In the past, only less powerful radiotelescopes were equipped with such instruments. This allowed Mr. Taylor's team to measure radio emissions from the galaxy in the 327 megahertz band -- meaning each radio wave was about 92 centimeters long. That meant they were measuring radio waves almost five times longer than what had been registered in the past with such a large telescope, resulting in a tenfold improvement in resolution of objects as far away as 100,000 light years. The team examined about 1/8 of the galaxy in a detail never before achieved.
NASA has begun preliminary planning for an unmanned space mission to Pluto. "It's the only planet we haven't been to, and this proposal envisions using a nuclear rocket around 2006 to get there in about 11 years," said J. H. Kelly, manager for power and propulsion technology at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
A nuclear rocket would enable a spacecraft to orbit Pluto and its moon Charon for extended study. The conventional "slingshot" trajectory method, using gravity assists from intermediate planets could take decades. And it would miss studying Pluto's atmosphere, which will collapse as the planet comes closest to the Sun around 2020.
The mission is among several planetary explorations that NASA and the Pasadena lab are contemplating early next century. Other missions, best powered by nuclear rockets, would include:
* A Neptune orbiter that would deliver a probe to the surface of the moon Triton, the coldest body known in the Solar System.
* A Uranus orbiter that would study the planet's five plus moons and deliver a probe into its bland-looking atmosphere.
* A Jupiter grand tour that would permit extended study of each of the four largest moons.
* A multiple asteroid rendezvous exploring up to six asteroids.
* A comet sampling mission in which the spacecraft would land on the comet, obtain material samples, and return them to Earth for study.
In all cases, Mr. Kelly said, his study shows that nuclear rockets improve the science that can be done primarily because a nuclear powered spacecraft is faster, more maneuverable, and can handle larger payloads.
Scientists say that they have detected at least two planets orbiting a dense star in the Milky Way, a report one expert called the best evidence for a planetlike system [sic] outside the Solar System.
Combined with a report in July of a planet circling a similar star, the new work suggests "planet-making in our galaxy or in the universe...is perhaps even more common than we have thought," co-author Alexander Wolszczan said. If confirmed, the planets from the two studies would be the first known outside the Solar System. Several earlier studies had claimed to find such planets, but some of them have been refuted and none is widely accepted.
The study was performed by Mr. Wolszczan, a senior research associate with the National Astronomy & Ionosphere Center at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and Dale A. Frail at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, N.M. They concluded that at least two planets were orbiting a pulsar that lies about 1,300 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Virgo.
Normally a pulsar's bursts are extremely regular. But the new study found that radio wave pulses from the studied pulsar, which arrive about 161 times a second, showed an irregular pattern. The pattern suggested that pulsar was repeatedly edging toward Earth and then away, being pulled to and fro by the gravity of orbiting planets. This wobble was calculated to be about 1,000 miles wide.
One apparent planet, containing at least 2.8 times the mass of Earth, appears to orbit the pulsar every 98.2 days at about half the distance between Earth and Sol. The other planet, with at least 3.4 times Earth's mass, appears to orbit every 66.6 days at just over 1/3 the distance from Earth and Sol. Results also suggested the possibility of a third planet that orbits about once a [Terran] year, Mr. Wolszczan said.
The planets may have a density and composition like Earth's altho there is little evidence on that point, he said. But "life as we know it most certainly does not exist" on them because the pulsar bombards them with "a really vicious mix of gamma rays and X-rays" and particles moving near the speed of light.
(Atlanta, GA) The Hubble Space Telescope, despite its flaws, has revealed what may be a powerful black hole collapsing the core of a distant galaxy, M87. The black hole may be 2-3 billion times as massive as Sol, suggesting that it may be the remains of a dead quasar. The telescope has also revealed infant versions of globular star clusters believed to be among the oldest object in the universe.
Previous studies have found evidence for black holes in the center of galaxies, including our own Milky Way. A concentration of stars in a galaxy's center roughly similar to that seen in M87 has also been seen before. But the clustering of stars seen in M87 provides better evidence for a black hole because it more closely matches what theory predicts.
According to theory, very massive black holes can trigger huge releases of energy as they suck matter toward them. The calculated mass of this hole suggests it would have been enough to create the kind of energy output seen in quasars. The quasar effect would have died when the amount of material falling into the black hole fell below a certain level.
M87 contains more than 100 billion stars. It lies about 52 million light-years away in the direction of Virgo.
The other finding, clusters of very young stars within galaxy NGC 1275, about 200 million light-years from Earth, may bolster the idea that spiral galaxies can merge to form elliptical ones. Normally such clustered stars are about 10 billion years old or older. But the newly found examples appear to be no older than a few hundred million years.
Warning that dating can be dangerous, a Toronto woman is taking orders for forms that can be signed to give formal consent for sexual relations to be used by people chilled by the William Kennedy Smith rape trial and stories of sexual abuse.
The forms, which come in a discreet black book about the size of a wallet, have a space for people to sign their consent to sexual acts. Co-signers can also list where sexual activity occurred, the birth control method, and if either partner was using drugs or alcohol.
"Men are getting afraid to go up to women in a social situation anymore," said the form's designer, Deborah Gallo, 37. "They're just going home and playing with their cats and changing their budgie [parakeet] cages. This is for decent, upstanding people" who want to take precautions "other than having someone standing there while you're having sex."
Pioneer computer programmer Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper has died. At the time of her retirement in 1986, she was the nation's oldest active duty military officer. She stayed in uniform under year-to-year extensions long after the regular retirement age of 62 to work on the Navy's computer programs.
Adm. Hopper, who held a doctoral degree in mathematics from Yale, joined the Naval Reserve in December 1943. After World War II, she joined in building the Univac I, the first commercial, large-scale electronic computer. She worked on an idea that led to COBOL, a widely used programming language that made computers a tool for business people as well as mathematicians. She also coined the word "bug" to describe the problems that plague computers and their programmers.
Every Presidential election is an opportunity for at least one alternate world. This book tells the tales of America's Presidents from Benjamin Franklin (1789-??) to Michael Dukakis (1989-1989).
Overall, these stories are of high quality, without the unevenness which detracted from another alternate history collection recently reviewed here. Two of the best, I am happy to say, are Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night by Jack Chalker and Demarche to Iran by Alexis Gilliland. Not only are these stories particularly enjoyable, but they illustrate the breadth of alternate history SF. Chalker examines the obscure possibility of President Millard Fillmore (1850-53) serving an extra term of office (1857-61) and fighting the Civil War to make the Union safe for slavery. By contrast, Gilliland chooses a better known event -- our recent unpleasantness with Iran -- and examines Gerald Ford's (1974-81) handling of the Teheran Hostage Crisis (1979-1979). Knowing something about Ford's Presidency makes this tale all the better.
Many of these alternate presidencies are skillful gems of the storyteller's art. Even the lesser lights have zing. Barry Malzberg's paranoia is slyly impressive rather than stupid in Kingfish. Resnick's own effort, The Bull Moose at Bay, remains poignant even if depressing.
All in all, this book is a good choice among an increasing selection of collections. I rate Alternate Presidents as Superior. -- LS
Every probability curve has its far right end where the most improbable possibility occurs. Terry Pratchett's Discworld is the multiverse's. And jolly fun to read, too.
The author's Discworld series is fantasy done as low comedy, a Monty Python sort of world. Pratchett always throws in lots of anachronisms and inside jokes. This time, they take over the book, with the Dark Demons from the Discworld's Dungeon Dimension attempting to take over the planet (?) by introducing "moving pictures" to the put upon alchemists.
This extended anachronism is well done, with many fine moments. I particularly like the vegetarian lunch at Holy Wood's finest eatery, and the thousand elephants subplot. In addition, Pratchett's comments on the nature of fame should inspire some serious thought among certain minds in this world's "Holy Wood".
However, the fact that the logic of the story is so obvious deprives it of a great deal of the impact that a more subtle tale (such as Circus World) would have. You can see where the author is going long before he gets there. The fun is in the scenery along the way.
Fortunately, it's well worth the ride as Pratchett takes us from the cavernous Secret Temple to the towers of Unseen university under attack by the -- dare I say it? -- the Fifty Foot Woman! And along the way, we learn that moving pictures really are the tools of the demons! I rate Moving Pictures as Above Average. -- LS
Maybe I need my mind transplanted, but I like this film. Nibble my ear for luck.
The basic story fits into cyberpunk's means streets subsubgenre. Corporate thugs kidnap hero Alex Furlong into 2009 AD in order to provide a drug/HIV-free new body for megabillionaire Mac McCandless. Alex, however, escapes and flees thru New York City pursued by friendly villain Vacendak and former girlfriend Julie Redlund.
A lot of this is fairly basic stuff: buildings are clean and well lighted in the Corporate Sector while dark and dirty elsewhere; buildings have huge electric billboards on them; cars look like hippos with wheels. Bladerunner stuff on a lower budget. In addition, a large portion of the film is taken up with gun fights and car chases with color coded thugs and color coded armored cars. There are some nice futuristic touches -- lasers rather than bullets and chaser Vacendak harassing chasee Furlong via laptop videophone -- but nothing extraordinary.
But more than a few parts need work. Putting the only foul language in the gun nun's mouth may titillate, but it struck me as overkill. Her paramilitary firepower was sufficient to intrigue. And the chases and gunbattles went on too long for their dramatic impact. This is also a short film, raising a question of value for money.
And yet, I enjoyed it. A basic energy overcomes much of the routine material. So reset your violence buffers and see a very dark future. I rate Freejack as Above Average. -- LS
Gee, what futuristic problem will Captain Picard, Commander Data and the crew of the Enterprise deal with now? Well, let's see. We'll be releasing the book the week of Martin Luther King's birthday. What a great idea! We'll denounce slavery!
This is not a bad book: just rather so-so. While exploring a new sector, the Enterprise meets a band of incredibly humanoid androids fleeing from their incredibly humanoid masters. Data is naturally attracted to this new race of androids, most of which are more humanoid than himself. But, alas! There's that pesky Prime Directive in the way again seeming to prevent captain and crew from helping the mechanical fugitives.
While Spartacus is not without its appeal, most of it is rather routine. There are a lot of deeply emotional issues in this book, but they all lack fire. The author simply doesn't bring his characters' most intense feelings to life. As a result, we remain almost unconcerned about the issue of slavery versus terrorism and the rights that machines might possess. And the military coup d'etat that resolves the humanoids' problems strikes me more as a deus ex machina than a logical plot development. I also figured out Data's foray into interspecies diplomacy well before the author did.
This book is not a total waste of money, but it remains merely adequate without the high points we would expect.
I rate Spartacus as Average. -- LS
If, as some say, 95% of WSFAns are wannabe authors, I heartily recommend this book as an example of excellent writing. In particular, it is outstanding in its development of characters.
The basic plot for this series of three (so far) books is that two Union Army regiments get teleported ... somewhere in 1864. They discover that the planet Valennia is controlled by a despicable race of intelligent aliens which treat their human slaves as cattle. Fresh from (near) victory in another war for human rights, the Yankees resist the aliens' appetites with fire and steel. Unfortunately, the aliens -- curiously, they still have no specific racial name -- are at least as intelligent as humans and strike back with cunning and stunning brutality.
One of Mr. Forstchen's strongest points is that he understands real evil. Many people may not realize the importance of this. To illustrate, many of the villains and challenges on both series of Star Trek are, to put it bluntly, strawmen. That is, they lack depth or tenacity and collapse easily when opposed by the stalwart crews.
(To be fair, Star Trek scripts are severely constrained by the 48 minute time limit(s). Forstchen's 300+ page novels have considerably more room for developing a problem. Unlike many, less skillful authors, he uses this room for increased depth rather than mere bulk.)
By contrast, the Valennian aliens are unspeakably foul creatures whose treatment of their human cattle will repel the strongest stomach. Don't dare read the description of the Moon Feast while eating!
This understanding gives the villains an impact and a terror that so many stock characters lack. By contrast, Darth Vader is a posturing gentleman.
And yet Forstchen manages to show his villains as real, breathing beings without detracting from their vile nature. This is the author's supreme accomplishment and alone merits the book's hefty price ($5.99!). When we read the alien characters' thoughts about riding across the endless grassy plains or seeing the lightning flickering across the tops of their sacred mountains, we understand these beings on their own terms. They have integrity. They have reality. They have life!
It makes their debates on how to respond to the Yankee/Rus/Roum challenge all the more intriguing. Most humans quickly agree that peace is both wonderful and desirable. But, what if peace is not possible? Is genocide an answer?
Actually, the Yankees might not have to worry about making such a choice. The aliens are tough, flexible and dedicated. They master men and technology with astonishing swiftness and hidden resources. Every time they return, they're more powerful and more dangerous than before. And their offer to humanity is simple: genocide, or slavery and genocide.
But the aliens are not the only characters with guts and brains...!
I rate Terrible Swift Sword as Excellent. -- LS