The Official Newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction Association -- ISSN 0894-5411
by Samuel Lubell
It lies just beyond those hills
Or hidden in that wood
It's spotted in the eye's corner
On the second before morn
It hovers just out of reach
A shiny field of stars
It sparkles on planets' distant shores
And grows closer every hour
The world of could not be
The world of never-was
Legend's truth and dream's reality
The path untrod, the road not taken
The world still yet to be
The world that might be true
The future's possibilities and the past's alternatives
If this goes on, the road extrapolated
They come together, going their separate ways
Two roads diverged,two parallel lanes
They feud and fight,as siblings not foes
The same sense of wonder, the same leap to the unknown.
Before the July 5th meeting at the Gulliands was called to order (or what passes for it at WSFA) at 9:15 there was a brief period of silent mediation. President John Pomeranz commented that the meeting was smaller than usual, to which the members present said, that all appendages were attached. The treasury reported a balance of $4,092.52 and suggested that it be left where it is. The claves failed to gather. Disclave 96 had no report of what money was left but said they probably could cover paying for the volunteers for Mike. The first homeless Disclave ('97), doubtless huddled on a street with a coffee cup open for donations, wasn't present.
Covert announced he was visiting hotels including the Pitt. The mention of this hotel gathered very mixed responses from the WSFAns present. Covert said the best choice was the Sheraton National, home of Disclave in 81-82, which looms over the Pentagon like a vulture (are you thinking what I'm thinking Pinky?) But he commented that it is a Sheraton. They have some interest in hosting us (the fools, they don't know what they are in for) but will need to do some smoothing because of past experiences at the last Sheraton. They apparently talk to each other (up-oh, maybe they do know what they are in for.) Paper airplane jokes were made.
Covert said the only other option is the Ramada Pitt. Covert said that Mike could do what he wants but "if he goes there, I'm going to Media West" to which Elspeth chorused, "Me too." Covert continued that the hotel has done some construction work and fixing up. But they probably won't let us be quite so free wheeling, no trucks in the hotel. The saga of the hose left behind from the last Disclave was recounted ending in how it managed to spray water all over a reception. "But that's what we mean by a wet bar." Other WSFAns commented that the neighborhood has deteriorated and even native New Carrolton people are afraid to go there.
'98 (Joe Mayhew was ill). The
entertainment committee reported seeing some fireworks. Walter went to the première of the Sci-Fi
Channel in DC (see last issue). He
reported that it was sparsely attended with just him and two guys from Lamada
in the rain. There was no old
business. The chair said he had
something that wasn't really new business (didn't he try this last meeting
too?) but that he just wanted to explore the option of a WSFA phone number for
flyers etc. Alexis volunteered his
phone number which was promptly
snatched up agreed to by the
members. The feisty chair then
committed a "triple beard pax" and the meeting was adjured at 9:45
Washington, D.C. (or what's left of it) July 4, 1996--On July Fourth, Independence Day, aliens attacked and destroyed New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and several other major cities. Your roving reporter has visited the outskirts of those cities to get reactions.
"Good riddance to New York--the city, I mean, not the state" said the governor of New York. "They always voted Democratic anyway."
"Actually I think they were working for the control board," said the sole surviving DC government official. "They finally reduced our budget to zero."
"So we make pictures in Mexico," said a studio executive. "Actually this just reduced our expenses considerably. All the stars are in the stars now. Hollywood is a state of mind."
"I always said New Yorkers should be less rude to out of town guests" said an Iowan whose business frequently took him to that city. "The aliens probably got taken through the city the long way round by taxi and that did it. A lot of cabbies got what was coming to them."
"Did they get the IRS too?" asked another person found in the ruins of our nation's capital. "If not, maybe we should invite them back."
"I cheered when the white house was blown up," confessed a movie theater patron. "Then I learned the president got out."
"I feel your pain," the president addressed a crowd of people whose homes were destroyed. "First airplanes, than fence climbers, now aliens. Next time I get an unlisted address."
No Kids, No Films
There were a number of complaints about no kids' programming - Suggested baby-sitting, cartoons, videos, games. One person said they paid $40 for baby-sitting at Arisa. Others suggested a kids' hang out, either their own space or a section of the Discave with toys. Someplace that could be their base.
A few mentioned the lack of a game room but far more cited the lack of a video/film room with movies you can't get in the video store etc. One person said he came to Disclave for the films and wants to know in flyer if there will be films/video. For a while this topic threatened to take over the meeting.
However, the Discave gathered rave reviews with one fan singling out the fresh fruit.
There were a number of complaints about the cost of the hotel and requests to look into other hotels. They specified the Ramada Inn, the Plaza Holiday in Rockville, Sheraton Silver Springs in Coolsville.
There were complaints about the pool fee, especially that there was no warning about this extra charge. And one person complained about the extra charge for more than 2 keys.
A number of people wanted to publicize the cost of parking and where they can park. One fan suggested making fan car pool arrangements (perhaps using the Internet)
The people found the program more than adequate. One person said they liked the extensive art programming and the balance of program. One person said they liked having the hard science programming.
However, one person thought that there was only a track and a half of programming and wanted more whimsical fun.
A couple of people asked about the lack of programming/art show on Monday.
The pocket program gained lots of approval (although one person did say they missed the grid they were drowned out by others who found it unnecessary.) People did wish there was more information in preliminary publications and on the web about program participants (they pointed out that this would be helpful to dealers.)
There was a request for the art show walkthrough to be later and for the art show to be open later on Sunday. And one person thought that the art show was too small.
A few found the rotating program rooms confusing.
The filkers want a flat room, not a sloped theater room thank you very much.
A fan suggested more use of the Ticonderoga room. Another complained that smoke from the consuite's smoking room drifted into programming rooms.
One person complained about the lack of parties and another that the party floor was split in two and it was difficult to get from one to the other.
One person said the freebie fliers should be on tables that are open even when the dealer's room is closed.
Attention to Attendance
One of the dealers said that he felt attendance was light (and implied that the dealers believed they were promised greater attendance.) A dealer found found a poor loading dock and inadequate light in the back.
People suggested more publicity and flyers at bookstores and book signings.
One person suggested day memberships.
Odds and Ends
One person raised the question about the rating of the Twilight of the Dogs and wished that the rating was mentioned somewhere.
There were apparently some post office related problems.
Someone mentioned that there needed to be better locks on the doors and Sam added the hotel needs to not lock doors we will be using.
A wish was expressed for more menus on the info table.
The 7/19 Meeting at the Ginters, "underattended" said Pres. John Pomeranz opened at 9:15. Bob reported cash at $4,054.43. The sole trustee present, Candy Myers, claimed she knew nothing. Disclave '97 was reported lost in the wilds of New Jersey. Disclave '98, Joe Mayhew, in his first WSFA meeting since his recovery, reported that Evan Phillips would be doing publications and Erica may do a weeding reception. He said, "By the time we get around to doing Disclave it should be spiffy." To which Sam said, "Don't you mean skiffy?" The entertainment committee reported an effort to jump start the Dole campaign by sending him a big red marker as a phallic symbol to pull in the women's vote.
The hotel search is on temporary hold until the return of Disclave '97 chair. The Sheraton National has made an offer despite the wedding that will use some function space and New Carrolton made an offer. The tale of the time fundamentalists rented a table in the dealers' room to preach against the evils of D&D was narrated to the meeting.
Attending: Pres. John Pomeranz, VP
Elspeth Burgess. Sec & 98 Chair Joe Mayhew, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. Candy Myers, Covert Beach, Bernard Bell, Chris Callahan, Steven desJardins, Alexis Gilliland, Lee Gilliland, Karl Ginter, Erica Ginter, David Grimm, Dan Hoey, Chris Holte, Eric Jablow, Bill Jensen, Judy Kindell, Samuel Lubell, Keith Marshall, Walter Miles, Lance Oszko, Peggy Rae Pavlat, Dick Roepke, John Sapienza, George Shaner, Steven Smith, Ronald Taylor, Michael Watkins.
The annual August switch is on. The August 2nd First Friday meeting will be held at the Ginters while the Third Friday will be at the Gillilands. The switch will takes place each year so the Ginters could care for a sick pen (or was it attend Pensik?) Eric Jabacov will host a Fifth Friday for those not lucky enough to be at WorldCon.
John will be hosting a discussion/barbecue on the future of Disclave on Sunday August 11th (Weekend of the Second Friday.) The door will open at 11AM, discussion will begin at 12 and will last no later than 6PM. Notice will be sent.
The beta test of the WSFA web page was announced. The URL is http://www.radix.net/~bungalow/ WSFA.html. John said it was clapped together and that he wants people to look at it and comment. He thanked Dan Burgess for doing the graphics and Sam Lubell for tweeking it. He asked the club to think about blowing $100 for a domain name.
Joe says WSFA should consider the web site an official publication and under the secretary's responsibility. He called it an essential part of the club's publications and said we should cross link it to other sites.
John said that yes, we would try to find ways to use our page to provide a service to the Internet community.
Erica commented that being Secretary is the hardest job and shouldn't be made harder.
Joe suggested activating the publications committee that is in the constitution to share this responsibility.
John commented that because of technology, the site doesn't have to be done by just one person. He also threatened to set up the WSFA Hoax site.
Elspeth was worried that people might stumble onto the page before it is ready but John said there are no links to the site so as long as no one posts the address to USENET or links from their pages, we should be safe. [Note that the above URL is in special ink not visible to non-WSFAns.]
It's summertime and the reading is easy. Let's face it, nobody brings War and Peace to the beach. The movie houses are saving the dramas for the winter and showing movies featuring explosions and special effects. Even the concert halls are playing the 1812 Overture with canons instead of Mahler. So here's a bunch of books that provide lots of action and adventure without succumbing to mindlessness.
In Palace: A Novel of the Pinch by Katherine Kerr and Mark Kreighbaum (Bantam $5.99) there is an alien killer on the loose, a young woman of mysterious parentage, and attacks in cyberspace. In this book, an area of space known as the Pinch has been separated from the rest of the human/alien federation and the cybertechnology, no longer fully understood is beginning to break down. Different guilds control the available occupations and genetics is heavily emphasized. There is a rich background and texture to this 450 page novel but it does not get in the way of the plot. Sometime before the book opens, the humans of the world of Palace fought a war against Lep, that started by the sabotage of one of the world's few Artificial Intelligences charged with the task of protecting the planet. Their invasion was stopped by a fleet of human survivors of a planet already destroyed by the Lep, led by Karlo Peronida, who used this victory to make himself first citizen of Palace.
The novel begins with the alien killer's first target, a not yet adult girl named Vida who escapes only with the help of one of the computer intelligences. She becomes one of the main characters of the book as she jumps right to top of Palace society when her true identity is discovered. The other main character is Rico, the nephew of the head of the cyberguild (and the cousin of the killer's other target.) He begins to explore some strange happenings on the Map (presumably what the world-wide web has evolved into.) The book combines a comedy of manners since Vida grew up in the "Pleasure Sect" and goes about charming upper class society, a love story (Vida and Rico of course), an interesting examination into hatred and prejudice, and of course action and adventure.
The novel is rich in details that are not vital, but adds to illusion of a long history. For example, one character in cyberspace tries to communicate with sort of a computer intelligence which does not recognize the term Palace for the world (which has only one city) and when questioned, calls it Polis. The alert reader now instantly sees that it has been a long long time since the planet was colonized. This is a world in decay, with lots of machines and knowledge that was once understood but now slowly rediscovered or not found at all. While the cyberguild of course spends a lot of time in cyberspace, this is not at all a cyberpunk book (its feel is that of the traditional sf adventure novel) but with some of the cyberpunk elements assimilated in the sf mainstream. (Which in fact leads me to my one quibble. The novel takes place in the far future but the computer technology level does not in fact seem more than a century or so beyond ours.)
The authors do a great job with characterization. Both Rico and Vida are interesting characters who the reader will enjoy spending time together. They are both a little inexperienced but bright and quick learners. Many of the other character are neither all white nor all black. KRico is the quick, charismatic leader, but dreams of putting Palace in control of the universe (with himself in charge), his wife, a power in her own right, bitterly hates Vida's family yet is the one politically protecting the non-human aliens. Ironically, the cardinal who is Vida's protector is secretly preaching heretical doctrines about humans being the lords of all creation. Even Vida's guardian is hiding secrets of her own.
One few annoying things with this novel is the number of subplots left dangling. Rico's mother and the son of the first citizen goes up into space but we don't learn what happens. There is a subplot of trying to determine if another species of alien, essentially used as slaves on Palace, are sentient. And there is a question about the identities leaders of both the human and the alien terrorist groups designed to make them the sole race on Palace. While the main plot is indeed resolved by the end, this is clearly the first book in the series (And Kit Kerr has said on Genie that the sequel(s) will be written by Mark Kreighbaum only.) Still a book whose worst flaw is that it leaves you wanting more (write fast Mark!) is clearly a big success. If you like a little political intrigue mixed with your adventure, this is your book. It is simply a fun book with excellent characterization and a few surprises, not all of which are revealed by the end of the book.
By contrast Catherine Asaro's first novel Primary Inversion (Tor $21.95) tries for a higher level than space adventure although it succeeds more on the adventure front than on the more literary level. It too features a cybernetic web, the Skol-Net powered by the energy of Rhon psis, which is one of the main thing keeping the good Skolians from being conquered by the Traders. The heroine, Sauscony, is one of the few remaining Rhon telepaths and for 25 years has been proving her fitness to be heir to the Skolian empire by serving as a Juggernaut, fighter pilots with strong psi skills and enhanced cybernetics. She needs to marry another Rhon telepath to have heirs of her own (and a strong telepathic bond with her mate) but the only one who is not part of her family turns out to be the heir to the evil Trader empire (although he has been carefully sheltered from their excesses.) Somehow she must protect her enemy from her own brother (the ruler of Skolia) since a Trader with Rhon powers could destroy the Net. And she must cope with her own mental condition as exposure to the Trader heir brings up long-repressed memories.
After some only slightly-hidden long information dumps in the first few chapters (one of the few signs that this is a first novel) the author has smooth sailing the rest of the way. She successfully avoids presenting this as a Romeo or Juliet situation, the romantic theme occupies less space than an examination into Sauscony's own mental state, the result of a brief imprisonment by the Traders as one of their tortured slaves. While the Traders are presented as black as can be (the other major weakness of the novel) the Skolians are far from perfect. Sauscony's half-brother may have murdered his grandfather to obtain his position and midway through the book she meets some civilians with their own complaints about the government.
The author does an excellent job with characterization. Sauscony's personality comes through clearly, even when most in doubt about her mental state. The naiveté of the sheltered trader heir, the gentleness of Sauscony's father, the pride of the other members of her squadron all are distinct from each other. Strong characterization helps establish the literary side of this novel.
There are several detailed action scenes ranging from a cyborg-powered break-in at the heir's residence, to outerspace combat fueled by psi communications and stasis fields to save a planet, to delicate manipulation of the Skolian Web. The author provides enormous detail so that the reader has very little disbelief to suspend even as the author combines psionics with cybernetics, with other forms of high-technology. For example, the author shows how the fonts of documents in cyberspace change according to who is looking at them. When one character looks at a document she wasn't supposed to have access to, she not only deliberately changes it back to the original font, she wipes out the font change as well. While other authors might have provided this level of detail if it was key to her being caught, here Asaro simply uses it as a detail to establish the nature of her universe. Because of this detail, this is one book which is believable as occurring in the far future. I highly recommend this book to those who want strong speculation, characterization, and literary value mixed with their action and adventure.
Debra Doyle and James Macdonald's The Long Hunt (Mageworlds Book Five) (Tor: 5.99) is the child of what may be the premiere space opera of the first half of the 1990s. While totally originally Mageworlds has much of the feel of Star Wars in its combination of science fiction with a mystical guild. (The Adepts have much in common with Jedi Knights and the adventures of Beka and her crew remind the reader of Han Solo and company in their blunt-speaking ways, readiness to reach for their blasters, and sheer swashbuckling audaciousness (not to mention their shared lack of concern for scientific rationale or plausibility)). However, these books are more sophisticated than the Star Wars movies. In the original trilogy, (The Price of the Stars, Starpilot's Grave, By Honor Betray'd) the three children (and their future spouses) of the General of all the armies and the Domina played a major role in defeating an invasion from the Mageworlds and the real enemy behind the invasion. The differences in the mysticism between the Adepts and the Mages are explored and the truth behind the murder of their mother is discovered. Oh, and the good guys win. These are some of the best space opera written since E.E. Doc Smith. The prequel The Gathering Flame about how their parents coped with the first war with the mages was only slightly less good (largely because the reader knew most of the story already.)
Unfortunately the third generation, the heroes of The Long Hunt don't quite live up to their family tradition. Jens and Faral, children of some of the main characters in the first trilogy leave the family to find their own adventure. They find it or it finds them. It seems that Jens has a legitimate claim to the throne of Khesat and becomes pawns in a power struggle between factions on that planet. That in a nutshell is the main problem with the book. The two seem oddly naïve considering the savvy ways of their parents and function either as pawns, dupes, or targets for most of the book. While there is a reason behind Jens' behavior it does not appear until late in the book and the authors do nothing to show why Jens believes it (let alone make us believe it.) While the previous books had the universe at stake, here nothing much seems at risk in this 282 page novel save the characters' lives (and this reader at least didn't see a reason to care about the characters after they desert their alien comrade and don't say a word about him.) There is a subplot about the ghost of a former enemy chased by a Mage and Adept working together but this is only tangentially connected to the main plot.
Ultimately, this is the weak child of much stronger parents. It is still a decent book with some adventure as the two cousins turn the tables on their pursuers. However it does not meet my expectations based on the high quality of the earlier books. My recommendation is that anyone interested in space adventure (and especially Star Wars fans) should read the first trilogy and the prequel and then decide if they are curious enough to read this book.
I wanted to review Firestar by Michael Flynn (Tor Books) here but am out of room. You'll have to read it at the science fiction and fantasy review page on the Web at http://www.serve.com/sfreview
by Samuel Lubell
When we left our intrepid WSFAns, they had just discovered that the editor of the Weekly What News was behind the invasion of clichéd little green men driving sf writers bonkers!
"We need a weapon," whispered one fan. "We need to show those bug-eyed monsters who's boss."
"Um, I think this is a PG movie. They don't hand out guns until at least PG-13" replied another WSFAn.
"And the aliens already know who's boss - I am!" shouted K.O. Pennypitcher who had overheard the exchange. "Take them away!"
"Yes, boss," said the LGM as they led the WSFAns into the escape-proof force-field cell.
"But you can't do this!" yelled the president of the club. "You can't have a cliffhanger in the middle of the page."
"Why blame us for your bad planning?" said the taller of the aliens. "An outline might help instead of making this up as you go along." He turned on the force-field and the Earthlings felt the green energy shimmer blocking their view as the alien left.
"Quick," said one of the many mathematicians in the group. "How much do we have in the treasury?"
"Why, $4,054.43," said the treasurer, using his detailed knowledge of every fiscal transaction. "But how does that help?"
"Give me a dime, and you'll have less. Then put it on the forcefield."
When the less money was put on the force-field it became a forceless-field and the WSFAns easily escaped the now-powerless sphere.
"Now let's take over the ship!" yelled the president.
"How?" It was a good question.
"We're supposed to be pirates," said WSFA's president "We charge them."
"Ah-hem!" said the chair-fan of Baltimore '98.
"Sorry, I forgot," said the president. "We have to keep the lines of demarcation clear."
"Quite alright." said the chairwoman. "Now, let's take over the ship!"
The WSFAns quickly turned their jackets into headbands and eyepatches, raised the Jolly Roger, and yelled "Charge!" as they stormed the control room.
"What?!?" "Xflfsa jlfsajljfsljs!" "By Lowuoivhxj's thingaoiurel!" The aliens and their human leader were caught completely off guard and quickly captured by the piratical WSFAns err Baltimore '98 pirates of fenzance.
"Fools!" gloated K.O. Pennypitcher despite being tied up at the moment. "You may have captured us for now. But how can you fly this ship and find your way home? We're light-years from Earth!"
Needless to say - To Be Continued. (OOPS, I said it anyway.)