The Official Newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction
Association -- ISSN 0894-5411
Edited by Samuel Lubell firstname.lastname@example.org
Duesday is here
Collaborations That Will Never Happen
Thank You Notes
Trees, Toys, Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!
WSFA Invents Time Travel
Star Wars Revived: the Hollywood Way
You Say You Want A Revolution
Edited by Samuel Lubell email@example.com
On Jan 3rd at exactly 9:16 (because John likes to be correct) the meeting began. There was no old business save wishing everyone a happy new year. The treasurer said "I want more [money]. It's Duesday. Dues are due and payable. Get up here you bums." Bob then announced a treasury of $2,529.91. A motion was made to wave dues for a year but no one took it seriously. A trustee had something to say, "sounds like something out of a prison movie." "That's intentional", said the President. "We want to be known as the elders of WSFA." Various vulgar jokes were made too quickly to write them down. Finally order was called again.
Disclave '97 Chairman Mike announced that was going linear, not multitasking and doing Broadside 2 for some other convention in Baltimore. Dan Burgess did create a four page flyer but it didn't get mailed. Balticon is giving us their list and it will be included in the mailing. Julie is beating the Disclave data into shape (hopefully flat) to get the regular mailing out between now and March. Hotel walkthrough was done. The hotel is still there but damp. No way the art show can be in the bunker. Work was done on the roof and the contract is doing it again anyway. The art show will be in the main building but there isn't much of a ceiling (it just has to cover the walls.) Elspeth said there will most likely be a smoking con suite in the outer darkness. Joe said the seam in the ceiling won't bother the hucksters.
Covert said that Judy got out the mailing to the potential participants. There are 16 new members making 116 paying members and comps. John said to come up with a list of comped members and let people protest.
Alexis said he got a letter from Judy. He sent out a letter to area pros to get them to come personally. (Read the letter in this issue of the WSFA Journal.) "And how many friends have you lost this week," asked the club.
"There will be a Disclave next," confessed Joe. "There may be a Disclave next, next."
The Entertainment committee got a Trek Trash catalogue containing the odd statement, "Our Klingon jackets won't last long."
Disclave far future came late but had nothing to say.
Joe and his vision thing are putting together a history of Disclave and a Face of WSFA collection. He is writing an article on Disclave for the Bucconeer Broadside (but the WSFA Journal may raise the Broadside's bid by two bucks an ear) on where we we've been and where we are going. Only thing unchanging in Disclave is the name.
John said he had contacted the web space provider but hasn't heard anything. Elspeth said they had just moved.
Eric said four weeks is a fifth Friday. Chuck Divine said he is already throwing a procrastinator's new year party. Alexis asked, "Is that New Year 1995" He is showing a real SF movie called "Seconds" staring Rock Hudson in his one serious role.
There was no new business.
John announced that he is pregnant. "And here I thought you were just gaining weight." Actually Sue Schroeder is pregnant because Sue and Stu are having a baby. And Dan Burgess's Buns are coming to a video store near you.
The meeting was unanimously adjourned at 9:45
Roll Call: Pres. John Pomeranz, VP. Elspeth Burgess, Sec. & 98 Chair Joe Mayhew, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. & 97 Chair Mike Nelson, Trust. Jim Edwards-Hewitt, 99 Chair Sam Pierce, Covert Beach, Bernard Bell, Chuck Divine, Terilee Edwards-Hewitt, Alexis and Charles and Lee Gilliland, David Grimm, Joe Hall, Dan Hoey, Eric Jablow, Samuel Lubell, Nicki and Richard Lynch, Walter Miles, George Nelson, Lance Oszko, Rebecca Prather, Steven Smith (at end), Lee Strong, Michael Taylor, Michael Walsh, Michael Watkins.
Harry Turtledove and Madonna's epic of an Alternate Evita.
Mack Reynolds and Jerry Pournelle's saga of a political moderate in a fairly moderate world.
Isaac Asimov and Gene Wolfe doing a remake of Sense and Sensibility called Style and Substance but with robots and torturers.
Piers Anthony and James Morrow rewriting the Bible (they swap every chapter. It produces an odd effect but the original wasn't seamless either.)
Theodore Sturgeon and Greg Bear. The Fish and the Policeman a novel of Hard Science with a Heart of Gold.
Robert Heinlein and any editor. To Sail Beyond the Sunset, The Cat who Walked through Walls, Number of the Beast etc.
William Shatner and Ron Goulart (Actually this one has been done.)
Arthur C Clarke and Robert Jordan Dragon Reborn on Rama
by Erica Ginter
If you haven't finished all your Thank You notes from Christmas/Chanukah, take heart. According to Erica Ginter some of your favorite SF characters haven't thanked everyone for their gifts either:
Lazarus Long -- genealogy software.
Aslan (Narnia series)--a supply of Mane and Tail shampoo
Davy (Edgar Pangborn's novel of the sane name)--a can of Tiger Balm
Gollum-- a box of Hot Pockets
Sherwood Williams (George R. Stewart's "Earth Abides")--Hooked on Phonics
Valentine Michael Smith ("Stranger in a Strange Land")--a copy of "Man: An
Dr. Conway (James White's "Hospital Station" books)-- "Barlowe's Guide to
Extraterrestrials" and a sushi knife
The January 17th meeting was held in really really cold weather. There was a tree sitting in President John's spot. But it was okay since John talked to the tree and introduced him to the club. (We decided that his bark was worse than his bite.) Erica said that the tree was in doors so that it wouldn't freeze. Considering the temperature no one in the club could blame it for wanting to be indoors.
Not having a gavel he told the club to consider ourselves banged and then he borrowed Lydia's rattle. The third Friday was called to some (faint) semblance of an order at 9:17 on the 17th, "How appropriate."
The treasurer shifted to the left. Dues are due. The Treasury stands at $2,576.83. "Let's have an arrogation." "Fine if we don't have to pay for it." Mean jokes were made.
The trustees just stared silently. "This is so rare."
Jim was not here, he was at the launch of the space shuttle.
Disclave soon said that things are proceeding like dropping a rock off the cliff. A progress report will be mailed first Friday in February. A folding party was promised. Letters to program participants are out. Getting 2-3 emailed letters. Treasurer has budget. Yahoo. Mike announced that AOL works if you have the secret number (which is not 42.)
Disclave 98 said, "We are selves, we hope." Disclave '99 had nothing to report.
The entertainment committee arranged for fireworks on the mall and arranged for tents of entertainment. But don't get a cold first. Three words, "William Henry Harrison."
The ad hoc committee said that Terilee was supposed get questions for survey. Joe announced a sensible way for the club to promote itself. Have the club make a business card with the schedules of meetings. These could be for face to face contact. If we see someone who is a WSFA type, (after first checking for the police) we can give them the card so they could know where to go.
John announced that he has contacted MEI Internet, but they haven't contacted me. They must still be strained from the move. Anyone interested in the committee should see Joe.
There was no new business but our president broke Lydia's toy abacus (Obviously, a toy meant for a baby is too much for our president to handle.) Joe said this was an example of slipped disks. Joe said that he is reading at the Library of Congress and has autographed a book review for the first time.
The meeting was unanimously adjourned at 9:44
Present and Accounted For: Pres. John Pomeranz, Sec. & 98 Chair Joe Mayhew, Treas Bob MacIntosh, Trust &97 Chair Mike Nelson, Trust. Candy Myers, 99 Chair Sam Pierce, Covert Beach, Dan Burgess, Alexis and Lee Gilliland, Erica Ginter, Joe Hall, Chris Holte, Eric Jablow, Bill Jensen, Judy Kindell, Samuel Lubell, Nicki and Richard Lynch, Barry Newton, Lance Oszko, Dick Roepke, George Shaner, Steven Smith, William Squire, Michael J. Taylor, Michael Walsh, Madeleine Yeh, Barcham Kipchak, Greg Canter, Mary Beth Bentley.
First and Third Fridays in March to Switch
Some may call it a "Loonie" idea but WSFA has announced its discovery of time travel. As a result of this new invention, the third Friday meeting held each month at the Ginters' will in March actually take place on March 7th. Meanwhile the first Friday meeting held each month at the home of the Gillilands' will actually be held on March 21st.
Maryland residents appear to be pleased with this temporary reordering of the cosmos. "We've always been seen as being third," said one. "This will let us be number one as we deserve to be." Virginia residents have decided not to rebel over this. "It's only one month," said one. "We're going to Lunacon anyway!" said another.
But fear not, in February and April, the time space-continuum will be in its normal state.
But the days grow short, as you reach December,
And the Disclave concom comes around and says
Won't you lend a hand for the bygone days?
The bygone days in question, from 1974 to 1981, were when I put on six well run Disclaves, before turning my hand to writing. These days, I wander in and do a few panels, mostly, leaving the heavy lifting to younger backs. But there is a certain affection for my home con, still, and WSFA, including the con committee, continues to meet in my house. So I sort of agreed to help out this year.
Which is what this letter is about. Part of the energy that makes a convention fun comes from the pros in attendance, like me, and as you may suspect, your own charming self. What I am doing to promote the '97 Disclave is asking the pros in the area that I know without having to look at their name badges to think about coming to Washington1 for the Memorial Day weekend. The programming is not heavy, and Disclave always had a strong element of relaxicon about it, but you aren't coming down to do programming2. Well, all right, performing is fun. I enjoy it, so do most of us. In the event that you decide to come, Judy, of course is the person to advise of this exciting fact3. Last year, however, attendance was down a little, and the schmoozing was below its usual high standards4. So here I am, pitching in without actually breaking a sweat, to exhort you, once more into the breach, good friends!
You know why you go to cons, and you know why you don't go; I'm not offering any extraordinary incentives. I am asking you to think kindly about Disclave5 this year, and to make up your mind when you are besotted with gemutlichkeit6. Sort of like signing a contract when your editor has plied you with strong drink, only with a fannish modulation.
What else? Programming, of course. Ideas that continue to interest me are: 1. How is the future we see in 1996 different from the one we saw in 1946? What are the gains, what are the losses, what are the changes? The choice of years is suggested by the fact that this is WSFA's 50th anniversary.
2. "The Marching Morons" by Kornbluth, who observed that fewer and fewer people were able to cope with civilization. The story suggested that this was because stupid people might be outbreeding smart ones, and Kornbluth's rather grim solution made an excellent story. A case can be made that a lot of people are too smart to let their philoprogenitive instincts get in the way of having a good time, but there is an alternative. The alternative is that as our civilization is becoming more complex, we are all becoming less qualified to cope with it. 2A. As technology provides the individual with more solitary means of egoboo, we rely less on the old communal means, and the communal institutions fall into disuse. Can technology be used to rejuvenate those communal institutions? 2B. Is it possible that more technology will simply enable us to move past some supercritical point, when we can't maintain the technology, and can't survive without it? It should be noted that the technological society has a lot of redundancy built in.
3. On a literary note, how do we reconcile the market's demand for more of the same with the essential quality of science fiction, which is the delight of discovering a new thing and ringing changes on it? 3A. This is a variation of fantasy vs science fiction. The new readers--the teens of 1996--growing up on television and movie reality, are exposed to much better special effects nowadays; does this impair their grasp of reality to the point where fantasy and sf blend with each other like butter into eggs?
4. Religion vs Evolution. Suppose Darwin is accepted as a major prophet, so that Evolution becomes subsumed in a new and trendy synthesis of Religion. Would we like the new dogma any better than the old? An analogy; Religion embeds scientific ideas in its dogma, like an ant is embedded in amber. Up to date at the instant of embedding, frozen unchanged thereafter.
5. The end of science. Does the unknown have limits, and what happens when we find them? Could this possibly have anything to do with topic 2B.? 5A. If the unknown doesn't have limits, how far is the human mind able to comprehend it, and still communicate with other humans in "known" space? Or: If the human mind stares eyeball to eyeball with the unknown, which one will blink first? 5B. Screwing the inscrutable: Metric threads, or English?
That should do for now. With luck I should get this letter printed up and mailed off before the New Year is up and running, and with more luck maybe I'll see you at Disclave.
1. Disclave will be May 23-26, 1997, at the Ramada Inn (the old New Carrollton Hilton/Marriott/Sheraton/Whatever) 8500 Annapolis Road, New Carrollton, MD 20784, phone (800)436-0614 or (301)459-6700. The room rate is $76 single-quad, with free parking.
2. The gracious Judy Kindell, [censored], Arlington, VA 22203 is handling programming. On behalf of Disclave, she offers you the usual, membership for you and a guest. She can be reached at (703) 522-4897 and at [censored]@aol.com.
3. You might also wish to advise her of program items you would like to be involved with.
4. Which is why I agreed to help out.
5. Guests of Honor are Patricia Anthony, Lissanne Lake, and WSFA's own Peggy Rae Pavlat.
6. From days gone by, we have a singing commercial. "In DC is der WSFA con, Ein Zwei, Disclave! Joe Haldeman's the Guest of Hon, Ein, Zwei, Disclave!" It's been a while, yes.
I do plan to attend and participate in Disclave, and have already returned the program questionnaire. However, I have owned and used a computer long enough to appreciate the need of a backup, so if you discover that Judy (I think it was) hasn't heard from me, tell her and at least one of you get back in touch - please.
Of your suggested items, 4 & 6 interest me most.
Response from Stanley Schmidt
Thanks for your letter of December 23. I hope your holidays were good and the new year even better.
I appreciate the invitation to Disclave and I like your programming ideas. However, I have a cluster of prior commitments in that temporal neighborhood, so I'm afraid I won't be able to make it.
The Hollywood Way
The scene is a meeting room in the Skywalker Ranch. George Lucas and his team of movie wizards are discussing their plans for the revival of Star Wars.
"We're sorry George," said the chief scriptwriter. "But we think Star Wars deserves more than just redoing a few special effects and adding a few creatures in the background. A blockbuster like Star Wars deserves better. This is our chance to make the Star Wars that should have been."
"Take the Wookies," said the chief of marketing. "Sure you can make a Wookie action figure but that's about it. How about if we make them smaller and cuter? More like a teddy bear. That way both girls and boys will want one."
"And that Leia dame," a Hollywood big shot said blowing smoke. "Her flowing robes and radio hairstyle has got to go. Put her in something that shows some skin and have her move sexy. That'll bring in the teenagers."
"You need more chase scenes," added another. "Instead of walking down hallways where all you can see is walls, have them be chased somewhere where there's a bit of scenery."
"But, but, but.." George was sputtering.
Still the meeting rolled on like a steamroller. "Our market surveys show that everyone likes Darth Vader," said the Lucas pollster. "We need to make him out to be a hero at the end. Can't he do some good dead that redeems him."
"That's a grand idea," said a flunky, oblivious to George's scowl. "The movie could use another hero. That way, we can de-emphasize Luke's role. What has Mark Hamill been in since that's any good? Zilch. Let's have someone else blow up the death star!"
"That's right, slice his role down. That way we can let Harrison Ford get the girl. Make her into Luke's sister or something and just ignore the fact that she's supposedly a princess while he's just a nobody from a small planet."
"But we've already made that movie." George finally got out his protest. "The third movie of the trilogy did all that. Hasn't anyone here seen Return of the Jedi?"
An abrupt silence filled the room. Finally it was broken by a crony. "Hey, great title. Why don't we use it for this revival. It certainly beats A New Hope for dramatic tension."
Richard Dreyfuss and Harry Turtledove's The Two Georges (Tor $23.95) is an alternate history mystery. In this world, the United States never broke away from the British empire. Instead George Washington and George III met and came to an agreement settling American grievances and forming the North American Union (what we call the US and Canada). But some, even in 1996 still hold the old grudges and dream of independence. The Sons of Liberty are still active as a terrorist organization (similar to the IRA in England and Ireland.) In this book they have stolen one of the most cherished objects in the empire, the painting of the agreement between Washington and George III, the painting called The Two Georges.
Colonel Thomas Bushell of the Royal American Mounted Police and chief of its Upper California Section was in charge of security when the painting is stolen. Now he will stop at nothing - and trust no one (except for his adjunct Captain Samuel Stanley) - in an attempt to get it back. Bushell is a very flawed but ultimately heroic character. His wife has left him for a man who works for his superior, Sir. Martin Luther King. He drinks too much. He is entering middle age, somewhat dissatisfied with his position and achievements. And he feels personally responsible for this crime. (Make a wild guess as to which of the authors would portray him in a movie version of this book.)
In trying to catch the Sons of Liberty he winds up traveling all over the North American Union, including the Cherokee Nation controlled by Indians. As always with alternative history, the most interesting aspect of the book is the background although the plot here would be strong enough to carry the book by itself. We expect a richly detailed, well thought out background from Turtledove and he provides it here. There are few airplanes, instead everyone travels via blimp. Tricky Dick, in this reality a used car salesman (naturally) is killed to provide a distraction when the painting is stolen. And Blacks, freed from slavery much earlier than in our reality, have almost all moved in the civil service and clerk positions keeping the empire running. (In an effort to make their Sons of Liberty less appealing to Americans who might naturally tend to side with them, the authors stress that one of their grievances are the freeing of the slaves and allowing Jews to settle.)
Not to give anything away, they is more to this story then even the theft of this famous painting, a traitor in the ranks of His Majesty's Government, and even a love story between Bushell and one of his chief suspects. This is a novel to read and savor. It can be read with pleasure by SF readers, history buffs, and mystery fans alike.
Fans of high adventure fantasy and readers of Robert Jordan and David Eddings may want to give J. Gregory Keyes' The Waterborn (Del Rey $22) a try. He combines the standard ingredients, barbarians, princesses, gods and goddesses, magic swords, etc. with what in today's fantasy market is a new innovation - a story complete in a single volume. The two main characters do not really interact (save through visions) until near the end of the book. The barbarian Perkar loves the goddess of the local stream and has sworn to kill the River God. In the course of adventures and misadventures he is quite surprised when he has become a hero. The more interesting character, a young princess named Hezhi haunts the library and teachers herself to read in order to find out what is happening to members of the royal family, and descendants of the River God called the Waterborn, who keep disappearing. The plot is basically bringing the two of them together so Perkar can save Hezhi at the last minute. Fortunately, the characters and those they meet are interesting. Perkar is troubled by doubts as to what the River really wants him to do so he can know to do the opposite. Hezhi is unsure as to which fate is worse, whatever happens to those who disappear or the normal life of a pampered princess sought after by suitors but never doing anything of her own. This is a first novel and very heavily promoted by Del Rey. It is the type of book you turn your mind off to read in one sitting (unless you get up to make popcorn.) The author shows considerable potential and adventure fans should pick this one up in the library.
While we are on the subject of fantasy, I'm pleased to report that Volume II of Dave Duncan's The Great Game is a better book than Volume I. In most trilogies the second book is just marking time between the original set up in the first book and the final confrontation in the third book. But Present Tense: Round Two of the Great Game alleviates the two biggest problems I had Past Tense. In the first book virtually everyone knew more about what was going on that the hero. In this second book he winds up explaining things to his friends back on Earth as well as taking over the fighting of a war back on NextDoor. The other major defect I found in the first book, the lack of character development and the main character's lack of personality which is resolved here by giving him a strong motivation to take action in the third book. Unfortunately Eleal doesn't appear in this book but a very similar character (just barely old enough for the hero to have more of a relationship) takes her place.
Speaking of remedying defects, I must plead mea culpa to last month's omission of the author of Fool on the Hill (Atlantic Monthly Press). Fool on the Hill was written by Matt Ruff (and saying so shouldn't have been so Ruff.)