The Official Newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction
Association -- ISSN 0894-5411
Edited by Joe Mayhew
She Remembered Men
WSFA Minutes January 19th at Gilliland's
Edited by Joe Mayhew
Shall I wax a moment on "She Remembered Men," Joe Mayhew's story in #33?
It struck me as being like a blend of the best Pangborn (DAVY, for example) and the best Atwood (THE HANDMAID'S TALE), where I had never before thought of comparing Pangborn and Atwood. To further refine my feeling, I guess I'd say it is Pangborn's soft warmth and humor crossed with Atwood's hard edge and unflinching stare. "She Remembered Men" starts off with a bang and keeps going, deeper, deeper, ratcheting up the tension at every turn. Lean (no padding), mean (but not mean spirited), and driven by something =real=. And a world--I usually (always?) buy stories that give me a whole world, a place where "sense of wonder" hasn't given way to "Wonderbread"(tm). (See T. Jackson King's "Alien Blood" in #34 for another good example of this "world" thing.)
Of course, not everyone will like "She Remembered Men" as much as I do, nor do they have to. I just wanted to point out, from my position of privilege as "First Reader among Equals" (or "The Gatekeeper"?), a few of the things that made me buy this piece and root for it.
This is Joe's second appearance in "Aberrations." The first was "Ernie Hoffmann's Story" in issue #28, "way back" in last April. (Oddly enough, the cover of #28, featuring a skiffy Robin Hood guy, seems like it could be an illo for "She Remembered Men" . . . coincidence, or was Joe inspired by that cover?) Now at the risk of pissing Joe off, I'd like to say that while I like "Ernie" enough to buy it again, I like "She Remembered Men" even more.
"Ernie" has that freewheeling lit'ry humor that Joe romps and plays with--if you ever get to meet him in person you will probably be dazzled by it, if not run over <g>. "Ernie" is like the fiction form of a musical play along the lines of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
But "She Remembered Men" shows us a different side of Joe, a facet where that larking whimsy is tempered by . . . something else. And as a result the story =moves=, through waters dark and deep.
Attending: Pres. Covert Beach,Sec. & 98 Chair Joe Mayhew, Treas. & 96 Chair Bob MacIntosh, Trust. David Grimm, 97 Chair Mike Nelson, Bernard Bell, Elspeth Burgess, Chris Callahan, Karl Ginter, Erica Ginter, Joe Hall, Eric Jablow, Bill Jensen, Eric Jerpe, Judy Kindell, Samuel Lubell, Keith Marshall, Walter Miles, Lance Oszko, Peggy Rae Pavlat, Dick Roepke, William Squire, Lee Strong, Michael J. Taylor, Ronald C. Taylor, and Michael J. Walsh.
President Covert Beach called the meeting to order at 9:18. There was no outstanding agenda.
Bob MacIntosh reported the WSFA Treasury stood at $6,281.42 and noted that dues for 1996 were due and payable.
DISCLAVE 1997: Mike Nelson's convention will feature as GOHs writer Pat Anthony, artist Lissanne Lake, and fan Peggy Rae Pavlat.
No business was conducted.
No announcements were given for publication.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:40.
WSFA OFFICER'S BOX SCORES:
President Covert Beach has asked me to keep track of which officers make it to the meetings. So far, since the first meeting in June, when this year's WSFA officers took up their duties, Prior to the Feb 2nd meeting, there have been 15 meetings (No officers were at the regular Nov 17th date most were at PHILCON).
MISSED AT PRES BEACH 4 11 VP EDWARDS-HEWITT 8 7 SEC MAYHEW 1 14 TREAS MacINTOSH 1 14 TRUST POMERANZ 6 9 TRUST EDWARDS-HEWITT 7 8 TRUST GRIMM 9 6 97 CHAIR NELSON 3 12
Not counting Feb 2nd, there are 7 meetings left in this club year; 5 before the May elections. I'll update these box scores in the May 3rd WSFA JOURNAL.
Future meeting schedule
FEB 16 at Ginter's MARCH 1 at Gilliland's MARCH 15 at Ginter's APRIL 5 at Gilliland's APRIL 19 at Ginter's MAY 3 at Gilliland's MAY 17 at Ginter's
DISCLAVE is May 24-27 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.
On the First Friday of each month, WSFA meets at the home of Alexis
and Lee Gilliland
[ address censored ]
On the third Friday of each month, we meet at the home of Karl and
[ address censored ]
Please be considerate of our hosts when attending meetings or calling for information.
I'm proud to officially announce my Honored Guests for Disclave '97.
Author Guest of Honor
Artist Guest of Honor
Fan Guest of Honor
PEGGY RAE PAVLAT
Patricia Anthony's first published SF short story, "Blood Brothers" appeared in ABORIGINAL SCIENCE FICTION No 3,1987; to date a total of 14 her stories have been published in ABORIGINAL alone. Since 1993, she has had four novels published by Harcourt Brace:
CONSCIENCE OF THE BEAGLE,
and HAPPY POLICEMAN.
Lissanne Lake has been a full-time professional illustrator since the mid-1980's. I can say, "Why I knew Lissanne when she was just a neo-pro!" from my days in New Jersey fandom. In addition to her recent covers for PIRATE WRITINGS, much of her work has been for the gaming industry - covers, modules, trading cards, and ads.
I think you all know Peggy Rae Pavlat. In 1998, she will be chairing this Worldcon thing called Bucconeer. I figured that if she accidentally got burnt-out while working on my committee, I would be forced to take her place as Bucconeer chair. So I made her my Fan GoH and instructed her to spend Disclave weekend smofing.
At the last WSFA meeting, Michael Walsh pointed out that 1997 will be the 50th anniversary of WSFA. So... Let's Have A Birthday Party! We're planning to hold a party in the Con Suite on Saturday night. Please give me your suggestions for our celebration.
There are still many committee positions open. I would like to fill as many positions as I can before this year's Disclave. The people who take these positions for Disclave '97 can get some valuable on-the-job training at this year's Disclave. We'll let Bob MacIntosh break in this hotel and then we'll show him how to really put on a Disclave.
The following positions are still open:
Films and/or Videos
Security (Niceness Watch)
Patricia Anthony's HAPPY POLICEMAN (Harcourt, Brace & Company, 282 pp. $21.95) is her fourth novel (preceded by COLD ALLIES, BROTHER TERMITE and CONSCIENCE OF THE BEAGLE). It is also her best so far.
"On the road that had once led to Longview, by the sign that announced the speed limit dropped from fifty to thirty, DeWitt reined in his mare. He stopped because he could go no farther -- the Line straddles the highway, an insurmountable paisley wall."
DeWitt Dawson, Chief of Police of Coomey Texas, is investigating a murder, an ordinary human atrocity. But he, and all the people, birds, insects, trees and weeds of Coomey are living inside a sort of terrarium where nearly all their wants are supplies bu the Torku, aliens who say they have rescued the township from a nuclear holocaust which has destroyed the rest of the Earth. The folks of Coomey keep on with the small hobbies, bigotries and vices which made up their day to day life before the sudden disaster destroyed their world. That they are the last remanent of humanity living in an artificial terrarium makes the pettiness of their normal life seem bizarre indeed. The town's Hell-fire preacher sees the aliens as demons and goads his flock to violence when Torku repeatedly come forward to be baptized. The Torku habitually edit reality; to them truth is a state of mind, not a linear set of facts. They erase the murdered woman's house in order to "unattach" her from it. Their leader, Kol Seresen tries to explain their ways to a frustrated DeWitt:
"We worship universes, and universes leak. They leak thought. They leak dream ... I tell you that somewhere a happy policeman with a happy family understands this. And somewhere that policeman explains to his friends. This is important to us."
Pat Anthony continues to write the type of science fiction which habitual readers of the best mainstream fiction would enjoy.
Pity poor King Arthur. Once he was the ruler of all England, the once and future king, the Pendragon, mythic hero and archetype. Now, however, in science fiction and fantasy novels of the 1990s, once-mighty King Arthur is reduced to a supporting character, his great deeds seen second-hand, if at all. While some of these elements have been in the story from the beginning, Lancelot dallying with his queen, his son scheming to take over the kingdom, and the knights out questing for the grail, in most previous works these elements occur after Arthur as hero has been firmly established. But in today's Arthur novels, most of the heroic derring-do is background. In Nancy McKenzie's novels THE CHILD QUEEN and THE HIGH QUEEN (Del Rey Books, $4.95 and $5.95) the main character is Guinevere; Arthur enters these books more as her husband than hero in his own right. In Dafydd Ab Hugh's ARTHUR WAR LORD and FAR BEYOND THE WAVE (Avonova $4.95 each) the hero is Peter Smythe from the 20th century whose mind travels back to King Arthur's court and winds up in the body of Lancelot, Arthur is more an object to be worked upon by the main characters than a character himself. Of course, this is by no means a bad thing, in fact, by moving Arthur out of the foreground, at least one of these authors has been able to reinvent the myths and make them relevant for the present day.
THE CHILD QUEEN is a first novel (and is labeled Del Rey Discovery of the Year) but its polished prose would do a veteran author proud. Wisely, the author realizes that anyone reading the book already knows the legends, and therefore the plot and so intrigues the reader through her own spin on the tale and strong characterization, not through the plot. For example, early in the first book, after the young Guinevere has been criticized for talking about making the Saxons British, the author writes:
I accepted his rebuke, apologized to Elaine, and kept my thoughts to myself thereafter. It was twenty years before I found a mind receptive to these thoughts: a man who accepted them and went beyond them, who believed in compromise and in the value of other cultures besides his own, a man who envisioned the entire civilized world as one community. That man was Mordred.
Obviously this passage gains resonance because it cuts against the reader's assumptions about Mordred (although Mordred as not quite villain is growing more common.) How can the reader stop after reading this?
The book even overcomes its most significant handicap--a good third of the book takes place before Guinevere meets Arthur and so all of Arthur's deeds are learned about second hand. The author gets around this problem by having the heroine's cousin Elaine be passionately in love with Arthur from the stories they hear while Guinevere herself is more skeptical. Also, the strong characterization of Guinevere makes the early section work. McKenzie's Guinevere is a tomboy who prefers riding horses to learning the princess business (an growing fantasy cliche meant to make the heroine seem more 20th century.) What's more even as a young girl she has a head for politics, of an unusually modern liberal bent. The irony here is that while all her cousin Elaine can think about is Arthur and becoming high queen herself, Guinevere has no interest in Arthur: "You'd only be a broodmare to him... Forget having a companion, he would never be there... You would never really know him. There wouldn't be time."
But Guinevere's aunt and foster mother, unaware of her lack of interest and fearing her beauty would overshadow Elaine and her chances, is quick to take advantage of Guinevere's rescue of an Irish prince. The queen arranges for Guinevere and Fion to spend time together which ironically arouses Elaine's own jealousy. Although Elaine has no intention of marrying anyone but Arthur, she can't stand the idea anyone would prefer her cousin to her. It is worth noting that Elaine is a very major character in this book. She is polite but selfish and ultimately betrays Guinevere (not a spoiler, the author herself states this in the same paragraph that introduces Elaine.)
The remainder of the book sets up the famous love triangle. Guinevere falls in love with Lancelot and he with her before she knows that she is the king's intended and before he knows she is the woman he has been sent to bring to the king. Arthur himself is aware of the attachment but he and Gen form their own loving relationship once Gen overcomes her awe and fear of the great king.
My immediate reaction on finishing the book was to grab and read the next one. This second book, THE HIGH QUEEN (which ends the story so this will not become a trilogy), is about Mordred who is not the evil traitor of legend but a troubled man with a larger family than good for him (even without separate branches for father and mother.) Here we see Guinevere the queen and helpmate of Arthur. It is her idea to bring Mordred to be the son she cannot give Arthur and she helps resolve many of the problems Mordred and (especially) his half-brothers bring to the court as well as the plots of Arthur's sisters Morgan and Morgause. Gen gets kidnapped again (once per book) and her relationship with Lancelot.
The writing in this book is stronger than that of the first book, and the plot more original. Yet the emotional content is somewhat less. The reader, instead of pitying and feeling emotionally close to the queen, wonders at Lancelot's blindness and sense of duty (he continually allows the worst possible light to be put on his actions) and rails at all the characters's ceaseless march toward their fates. Still this is a minor flaw, if even that since it is in part a result of the traditional Arthur story. Gen's character is even stronger than in the first book and McKenzie is able to make all the other characters her own as well.
In short the two book sequence is a fine addition to the Arthurian canon and an interesting look at Guinevere. While the author cites her debt to Mary Stewart, there are also influences of Marion Zimmer Bradley's MISTS OF AVALON but less outspokenly feminist. Incidentally, there is very little fantasy content in these books and most of that comes second hand in stories told about Merlin. Still, these books are certainly NOT romance fiction (especially the second.) These are very good books period, and when you consider the fact they are first novels, surprisingly so. I look forward to reading more by McKenzie.
In a very different take on the Arthur mythos, Dafydd Ab Hugh also imbues the Arthurian characters with new spirit in ARTHUR WAR LORD, but this time literally as three characters from the present take over members of King Arthur's Court. Peter, a member of the British police secret unit "22" that hunts down IRA terrorists is assigned to infiltrate a secret government experiment to find out which one of the people there is an IRA spy (why the 22 think there is an IRA spy there yet don't know who is never explained.) As part of his cover identity he is taught a few Masonic secret handshakes and recognition symbols since one of the scientists involved is a Mason. The project turns out to be a form of time travel that projects the spirit while leaving the empty body behind (the mechanisms are never explained.) Using the device, the suspected IRA terrorist, who identifies Peter first, escapes back into the past, changing history somehow so that the people in the time travel project see a rural, uninhabited England gradually replacing the country they know. To save history, Peter goes back in time and winds up in the body of Lancelot. His mission, to find out who in Camelot is an IRA spy and to stop him or her from doing whatever it was that destroyed England.
Fortunately, since Peter is a rather dull and laborious character (and to provide enough plot to stretch this situation into two books) two other original characters provide much of the action. There is Cors Cant Ewin, a somewhat naive bardic student who matures through the two book sequence and Anlawdd, a chattering princess disguised as Gwynhwfyr's seamstress. She is the logical suspect to house the IRA spy, especially since her own private mission is to kill Arthur herself. But, the reader can cross her off the list because her sections of the story are narrated in the first person (while Peter's and Cors' are in the third which makes for some disjointed reading) and she is clearly her own woman except for falling in love with Cors, or as she calls him "That Boy". These two characters come to dominate much of the story as Anlawdd, a Mason and niece to a Mason, begins to expose Cors to the rituals.
The Arthur here is the Roman Duke of Battles, more war-lord than King, trying to hold England together and, ultimately reforge the Roman empire. Gwynhwfyr, portrayed as almost a slut, sleeping with anyone under the pretext of practicing pagan wife- sharing rituals. She is especially attracted to Lancelot, and Peter, in Lancelot's body, reciprocates her feelings. The hints the book provides of Lancelot, a brute who is much less intelligent than Peter, are intriguing. But while a few characters comment on how much Lancelot has changed (to the point of becoming literate) they do not take any action or even ask many questions. They don't even go to Merlin to seek his help in abolishing the evil spirit possessing the King's champion. Mordred is earnest and inexperienced, not a villain at all. And Merovee, called half-fish, has his own secrets.
One of the books' weaknesses is the prevalence of Masons in both time periods. I can swallow Masons building a time machine in the present OR Masons in King Arthur's Court (although the narrator expresses surprise since Masonry hadn't been invented yet) but not both in the same book. And it is unnecessary too, all the author had to do was hint that Peter knew the information about Masons from a previous mission, or from an uncle, or even his own reading as a conspiracy buff. The books also seem like some judicious editing could have made one stronger book out of the two (although this probably would have shortchanged the Anlawdd plot which is the best thing in the book.) But this pales behind a glaring problem with the end of the series (in FAR BEYOND THE WAVE and the terrorist's plot itself. Ultimately the terrorist puts Peter in the position of changing history (when he knew the Arthurian stories well enough to recognize that he was changing history) but left him room to undo it.
These books are examples of the whole being less than the sum of the parts. The story of Anlawdd overcoming her past and her mission and the story of Cors Cant's spiritual journey and growing love for Anlawdd do not match stylistically with Peter's search for the IRA terrorist. Readers who want a thriller with a an Arthurian and vaguely science fictional / fantasy background would be interested. (The author claims the book is science fiction, the publisher labels them as fantasy / science fiction and there is at least one example of something that is at least a miracle if not magic itself.) But aside from the characterization of Anlawdd and Cors Cant, there is not much above the ordinary here. In fact, if I hadn't bought the two parts at the same time, I doubt I would have sought out the second volume.
My recommendation: Buy and read Nancy McKenzie's THE CHILD QUEEN, if you like it buy THE HIGH QUEEN. If you see ARTHUR WAR LORD leaf through it first to see if you are the type of person who might like it.