The Official Newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction
Association -- ISSN 0894-5411
Edited by Joe Mayhew
Sixth World Fantasy Convention
WSFA Minutes September 15th at Ginter's
Swimming in the Mainstream
Another Review by Ken Knabbe
Edited by Joe Mayhew
Naturally, from my point of view, the 6th World Fantasy Convention was an art show with rumors of other things going on elsewhere. Like the Noreascon II show, 6WFS's art show was a WSFA/BSFS production. Tom Schaad ran the Noreascon show - much larger but not a whit better! -- and I, Joe Mayhew ran the Fantasy World Con, and with many of the same people pitching in. Bob Oliver and Walter Miles were my assistant directors. What that meant was that they did a heap of the actual running of the show. Bob handled the sales and registration and Walter was in charge of the setting up, dismantling and assignment of space to the artists. Some of the artists were surprised that they were actually dealing with them, rather than me - surprised at first but I think it works out better when the people who have to do the work make the decisions which affect the work they do. So Bob and Walter were actually running their areas. Walter did the layout for the hangings and supervised their use. Bob, who has gotten to be better at such things than I ever was, did the bookkeeping and handled the money. They were helped, fortunately by a lot of generous people: Rosa Oliver, Larry Gelfand (who runs the Philadelphia Con art show very well indeed!) Cecilia Cosentini (who has run the Lunacon art show and is running the Hexacon show again) Janny Wurts, Kim Hutchinson, Sally Bensusan, Lydia Moon, Alex Stevens, Michael and Sharon Harris, Tom Miller and his wife Barb, Wilma Fisher, And a hoard of others who either volunteered or were pressed into service.
The Guest of Honor may have been Jack Vance upstairs, but down in the art show it was Boris Vallejo. Boris is a soft spoken Peruvian who looks like the rightful heir to the Inca Emperors. He brought 10 of his originals, which are rarely, if ever for sale. His sketches have gone for more than $1,000.00 each, so the fact that his pictures were NFS was only a formality. Rowena Morrill was the surprise of the convention. It was the first time she had ever exhibited at a Convention and the attendees were wowed by her delicate technique. Tom Canty was hanging next to Michael Whelan, which created a small bottleneck of fans. But Don Maitz (who won the Best Fantasy Artist Award) Carl Lundgren, Alicia Austin, O.Berry, and so many other of the top people in Fantasy Illustration were there that I overheard quite a few people say that the 6WFS art show was the best show they had ever seen. Boris was one.He was genuinely impressed. I wish I could take the credit. All I did was crowd the best artists in the field into a very small and less than ideally lighted space. Most were remarkably patient. Some few groused. I tried to make them all work for their space.
My system is to get them there early and suggest that they all pitch in so that their stuff can get up that much sooner. It works fairly well, particularly since I give space out to those who help first. Then, when it comes to breaking down the hangings, I don't allow the art work to be given out until the hangings are down. That helps get it done very quickly. It seems a bit harsh, but we need the labor. O. Berry is a very fine artist. His work is often more than illustration and is just as much at home in Beaux Art shows as in Cons. He pitched in and worked like an immigrant for us. "O" it turns out is a name he earned as a squash player. It stands for "Orange" which is a reasonable description of his hair. He is so wholesome, handsome, and talented I would want to kill him except that he is so good natured and willing to pitch in and work that I'll have to take out my envy elsewhere. Like crushing Carl Lundgren's hand. Carl was generous enough to help us when we discovered that the rolling coat rack on which we were piling the pegboard (which seems to weigh tons), was held together by masking tape and broke while Bob and Rosa were loading it. Carl reached out to stop the pegboard from falling and was pinned in the wreckage. Fortunately it was his left hand - it wasn't cut or mangled, just bruised. That'll teach him to help!
Working Cons is the fannish equivalent of bowling, disco, or evangelical canvassing. We do it for fun, obsessive subconscious drive or guilt expiation. Walter, Bob and I put in a lot of hours planning the show before it took place. Some it it paid off. Some didn't. For example, I registered in the Hunt Valley Inn in advance. When I got there my room was cancelled. It seems that I was supposed to show up on Thursday and when I didn't they cancelled my room. I thought I had made registration for Friday and so.... but it has happened to you too...AHA! but I was one of the blokes who were running the show and like magic a (sorry we are sold out) room appears. So Thank you Chuck Miller and the Hunt Valley Inn for straightening that out. I ALSO had to scream and throw tantrums to get a key to the art show. They change staff so often that they don't know what to do about what they solved easily the previous year. ANYWAY I curled up on the floor pounded my fists, screamed, held my breath, said naughty words and threatened to pee myself. In the long run it worked, I got the key. When I was behaving respectable and adult they refused me the key, when I behaved like an irresponsible child, they gave it to me. Makes sense.
Facts and Figures: 94 artists exhibited a total of 663 pieces, but only 472 of them were for sale. The thrust of the Con and the art show was not the usual sales, but rather meeting and exhibiting for the publishers and editors who were there in droves. Still 38 of the artists made sales. 110 pieces were sold for a total of $6,533.00 or so. The most costly piece was Alicia Austin's "THOMAS RHYMER MEETS THE QUEEN OF FAERIE" which went for $575.00. O. Berry topped sales at $630.00 total. There wasn't much voice bidding and so most of the sales were for minimum. Jack Chalker told me to expect as much. The Saturday night auction lasted about 1 hour and 40 minutes, the Sunday morning one went on for about 15 minutes to sell (mostly for minimum) 29 bids which had been made during the hour and half the show was open that morning before the second auction. The piece which saw the most increase from its minimum bid was Tom Canty (Edward Tudor lookalike)'s Detail $5 from ATHEUM. It went from $20.00 to $125.00. It was a smaller show than I had expected, but it was mostly very fine work. I had advertised it, at Chuck Miller's request, as a professional only show. But when a few of the less-than-professionals showed up, and I had the space, I let them in. It is very embarrassing to be in a position to judge others work. I'll never do it again. Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller were very good people to work for. They were most supportive.
If you want to know about the rest of the con, you'll have to ask someone else. That would be easy for most WSFans. Lee Smoire ran registration, Charlie Ellis ran programming, Mark Owings ran the Film Program, and a bunch of others worked on the con or attended it. Mike Walsh ran the Dealer's room. I heard that there was 1 huxter for every 9 attendees.
Note: "O" Berry is Rick Berry, the 1995 WFC Guest of Honor, Michael J. Walsh is Chair.
[ Misprinted in the original as "WSFA MINUTES OCTOBER 6TH AT GILLILAND'S" ]
Attending: Pres.Covert Beach, VP. Terilee Edwards-Hewitt, Sec. Joe Mayhew, Treas. & 96 Chair, Bob MacIntosh, Trust. Jim Edwards-Hewitt, Trust. David Grimm, Trust. John Pomeranz, 97 Chair Mike Nelson, Eric Baker, Elspeth Burgess, Chris Callahan, Steven desJardins, Chuck Divine, Erica Ginter, Dan Hoey, Eric Jablow, Bill Jensen, Judy Kindell, Paula Lewis, Samuel Lubell, Richard Lynch, Nicki Lynch, Keith Marshall, Walter Miles, Candy Myers (ex Gresham), Barry Newton, Judy Newton, Lance Oszko, Peggy Rae Pavlat, John Peacock, Sam Pierce, Dick Roepke, Rachel Russell, George R. Shaner, Steven Smith, Colleen Stumbaugh, Michael J. Taylor, Ronald C. Taylor, Ginny Vaughn, Michael J. Walsh, Michael Watkins, Madeline Yeh, Ben Zuhl.
The meeting was called to order at 9:17. The Treasurer reported WSFA's account as having a balance of $7,775.55.
TRUSTEES: The election for the 1998 DISCLAVE will be held after the first Friday meeting in October (Oct. 6th). John Pomeranz, speaking for WSFA's Trustees announced their constitutionally required candidate to be JOE MAYHEW. Other nominations can be made from the floor at the time of the election, with the consent of the nominee.
DISCLAVE 96: WE HAVE A HOTEL! Chairman Bob MacIntosh announced that the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency Hotel will be the site of his Disclave. The room rates are 1-2 @ $99; 3-4 @ $114.
DISCLAVE 97: WE HAVE THE SAME HOTEL! Chairman Mike Nelson announced that the contract included 1997 as well as a big bucks penalty clause for the hotel if it cancels out on us.
NO BUSINESS WAS CONDUCTED.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:41.
Please make sure that WSFA Secretary Joe Mayhew has your current address, telephone number and an E-Mail (if you have one) correct in time for the Third Friday in October WSFA JOURNAL. If you are planning to move before Christmas, this would be useful information. A print-out of the current list was circulated at the lst Friday in October meeting and will be passed around at the 3rd Friday meeting as well. Please check your address.
Science fiction is a genre but it is also a marketing category. Certain authors are listed as science fiction authors while others, whose work may be just as fantastical, are not. Part of the reason is the author's reputation. An author who starts out writing in the mainstream, and then dabbles in some science fiction or fantasy, is likely to see such works continue to be published as mainstream. However a new author, or an author with even a minor reputation in genre, could well find the same work assigned the science fiction or fantasy label for good or for ill.
It is said that science fiction is what science fiction editors buy (so by the same logic mainstream should be what is bought by mainstream editors.) And of course science fiction books are given special symbols on the book's spine and covers with dragons and rocketships while those for mainstream books are more sedate. Still it difficult for science fiction readers to call a book about an android in a semi-cyberpunk future, a magical story about a flying horse and time travel, a modern journalist's meeting with the legendary Sindbad the Sailor, and a short novel about telephone hacking in 1922 anything but science fiction and fantasy, especially when a novel that is 99% about young women attending a contemporary college is labeled fantasy.
Marge Piercy's novel HE, SHE, AND IT would not seem out of place serialized in ASIMOV'S magazine or even ANALOG. It takes place in the future after a great disaster that has depopulated much of the Earth and left Israel a nuclear wasteland. Earth is controlled by several large corporations who totally control the lives of their workers with only a few small free towns contesting their dominion. In the book, after Shira's husband wins custody of their son due to his higher corporate standing, she flees home to the free town of Tikva where a family friend has offered her a job, working with an illegal cyborg, built to protect the town. Her story, her past loves and relationships with her grandmother and real mother, are interposed with the story of the original mechanical man, the Golem of Prague, more than 200 years before the writing of FRANKENSTEIN.
While much of the action focuses on the efforts to rescue her son and the town from the multinational corporation trying to destroy them, the focus of the book is on the human side. Shira learns to live with her failed relationships with her husband and Gadi, her lover from school and the son of the cyborg's creator, by falling in love with the cyborg. Yod, the cyborg, is himself presented as fully real, even human, character. He wants his independence, his humanity, but is aware that he is programmed to protect and kill. His shock when he discovers he enjoys killing, and Shira's own reactions make for one of the most emotionally charged scenes. His abilities are contrasted with those of an enhanced human who has a relationship with both Shira's mother and with Gadi.
Still, while the appearance of the novel is heavily science fiction, complete with self-aware computers, a virtual reality 'Net with elaborate security programs, and a post-collapse society, the concerns of the book ultimately are the characters. All of them, even minor characters are fully developed and feel like they have their own lives that will continue after the book is over.
The strong Jewish character of the novel must also be noted. The town, Tikva, is the Hebrew word for Hope. Many chapters of the book are Shira's mother's story of the creation of the Golem of Prague as seen from the Golem's point of view. That Golem was created to save the Jews of the Ghetto from an attack by their Christian neighbors. At the start of the book, Shira and her husband are called Marranos, after the term for Jews who survived in Spain after the expulsion of the Jews by pretending to be Christian.
Although the author has previously written at least one other book that could be called science fiction and this novel includes cyborgs, the future, orbital platforms, and murders in cyberspace, HE, SHE, AND IT is called mainstream. This book is highly recommended as an introduction to science fiction for those more familiar with mainstream and as simply an excellent book for science fiction readers as well. (It is worth mentioning that the cover of the book, a soft focus pastel of a woman taking off a dress does not signal science fiction in any way.)
Mark Helprin's WINTER'S TALE is an unforgettable collection of images--a white horse plodding around in a circle, determined not to give up, the same horse jumping, flying. A Brigadoon-type town frozen solid. A living painting. The last of the bushmen. The bridge spanning into the next century. The perfectly just city rejoicing in justice alone. The fog eating the banks of the city and the woman trying to outskate it. The sick woman sleeping in the snow on the roof, rising to perform miracles. While there is a narrative, or rather, several narratives in this nearly 700 page book, it is the quality of the writing that holds the book together:
"Then, from atop a long rise, they saw the village sparkling like a group of colored candles. It was on the edge of the lake, which was crowned by the blue-and-green aurora now hanging in the sky in astounding silent ribbons. Smoke from the Coheeries chimneys crept up in intertwining white garlands and tangled on the moon. Now skiers, countrymen, they raced in contentment, hissing down the slope, speeding toward the Christmas candle that danced before them by the frozen lake..."
At every page there is something new to astonish, new phrasings to delight. The book would be excellent even if there was no plot, but the plot is almost as extraordinary as the language and imagery. The book starts with Peter Lake meeting the white horse and escaping the Short Tails, little is explained at first of Peter Lake, the Short Tails, and the reasons for the chase. The Short Tails are a criminal gang whose leader is known for liking color and occasionally returning stolen paintings with notes on why he didn't like them, "Take any American city, in autumn, or in winter, when the light makes the colors dance and flow, and look at it from a distant hill or from a boat in the bay or on the river, and you will see in any section of the view far better paintings than in this lentil soup that you people have to pedigree in order to love. I may be a thief, but I know color when I see it in the flash of heaven or in the Devil's opposing tricks, and I know mud..."
Peter falls in love with Bevery, the daughter of a rich newspaper magnate, when he tries to rob their mansion. Together, they spend a magical winter, including a visit to the mythical Lake of the Coheeries ("which was so far upstate that no one could find it") and a final dance on New Years where as Peter tells Bevery, "You were queen of the world. First you put Pearly to sleep. Then you seem to have opened the doors, stoked the fire, and made the clock spin..."
In the second part, which seems connected to first only by the Lake of the Coheeries, a young woman leaves the Lake to go to to New York City and a man begins a quest for the perfectly just city after choosing his father's salver instead of his fortune. The salver has the words "For what can be imagined more beautiful than the sight of a perfectly just city rejoicing in justice alone." This section is most notable for its wonderful descriptions of New York City and its two warring newspapers, the Sun (and the morning edition, the Whale) and the New York Ghost which continues into the third section. "His [the owner of the Ghost's] power over them was nearly absolute. For example, he made them change their names to the guide words on the bindings of THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA. This was so that he could remember better who they were, since he spent a lot of time staring at his encylopaedia." This newspaper "was run by headline writers. Over the years, the success of their sensational declarations had transformed them into a caste of elevated mandarins, and they discovered that their headings did not need to have any bearing whatsoever on the copy below..."
In the third section, Peter Lake wakes up a hundred years later, without his memory but with his extraordinary knowledge of machines intact. He is able to explain all the old equipment to the workers at The Sun which is still operating with the original printing press but without an understanding of how to maintain it. "And as they [the machines] puffed and revolved and did their mad angular dances, Peter Lake realized that he was a mechanic. In each section of the half-acre of machinery, years of knowledge charged out from the interior darkness and stood at attention like brigades and brigades of soldiers on parade. The realization was locked in place as if with strikes and bolts. At last, a victory."
Meanwhile dead people from his past are trying to build a rainbow bridge and, somehow the Short Tails are still chasing him. This last section gets a bit chaotic, and some of this is not fully explained (which merely pushes the book a notch closer to magical realism rather than destroy its charms.)
The mystery begins with a strange ship "For the illusion of fields and orchards across the water, and the light western sky itself, were slowly and steadily obliterated by a wall that traveled sideways, the prow of a ship that moved slowly up the Hudson, a massive guillotine, the lid of the world, closing from south to north." This giant ship, thousands of feet long, appearing on the eve of the millennium, seems to signify approaching miracles and the city-dwellers fight over the meaning. The ship and the people on it are closely connected to Peter Lake's forgotten past and to the city's future.
WINTER'S TALE is highly recommended as one of the best fantasies I have read. There are no dragons or wizards, but instead magic is revealed in the grandeur of language and in the meaning of strange events half taken for granted. (The cover of the book, a horse outlined in stars flying above the city would not look out of place on the fantasy shelves.) And yet, because the author had a history of publishing in the mainstream and worked for THE NEW YORKER, this magical book was called mainstream.
This Star Trek novel tells the story of Zefram Cochrane both in real-time and flashbacks starting right after his successful trip to Alpha Centauri in 2061 until his death on U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701D. Of course, much of the book takes place during the time of Kirk and Picard, but it does go into his entire life.
I usually do not read Star Trek books, but this was given to me as a present so I felt obligated. I am glad I did. The book is well written with a good balance of action and plot. Like Star Trek II, the book takes events from the TV series, in this case both series, and adds to them without making factual mistakes. It would have made a much better movie than Generations.
If you are a fan of Star Trek, this book is worth reading.