The WSFA Journal

The Official Newsletter of the Washington Science Fiction Association -- ISSN 0894-5411

Edited by Samuel Lubell

Newsflash: New DisTime, New DisPlace
What Really Happened to the Ramada?
Nine Seconds Stood Between WSFA and the World's Record
Son of the Evil Overlord
Hey Kids! Can you Unscramble This Meeting?
SCI-FI Books to be Updated
Do You Believe in Space Aliens?
It's All in the Mind
More On the TRYS Drive

NEWSFLASH: New DisTime, New DisPlace


Disclave 1998 will take place at the College Park Holiday Inn (right off the Beltway). Ironically, enough this is due to the New Carrollton Ramada being sold yet again.  However, the Holiday Inn was not available during the traditional Disclave weekend. Disclave will therefore take place during the weekend of May 1-3. <This is everyone's cue to start yelling Mayday!  Mayday!>  This will prevent interference from soccer tournaments and extend the distance between Disclave and Bucconeer.

What's Really Happening to the New Carrollton Ramada?


Your enterprising reporter has struggled for the last several days to find out just who has purchased the New Carrollton hotel.

"It was the ghost of President Nixon," insisted one of the waterboys.  "He is buying up hotels out of revenge for what the Watergate did to him."

"Nah, you idiot," responded one of the maids. "Kevin Costner.  He filming Waterworld II here, no?"

Several local residents reported seeing a bunch of men in black cars drive by, but no one identified them.

"You think I'm going to tell you that it was bought out by Wal-Mart," laughed the old owner.  "Oops.  Why don't you forget I told you that."

"It was a coalition of all the old owners of the hotel," insisted one experienced employee.  "They missed the place so much that they all joined forces to buy it up."

Your humble reporter approached the hotel during a recent trade show there to see what contracted users of the hotel thought.

"It had to be Bill Gates," said a man at a recent computer show.  "He's buying up everything else.  It only stands to reason that Microslough would need a hotel in the Washington Area."

"I hear Maryland is reviving the death penalty, so instead of an electric chair..."

Rumor says that a congressional committee is investigating whether any Chinese campaign contributions were used to buy the building for those parties too big to fit in the Lincoln bedroom.  Beyond this, no more is known at this time.  We will of course keep The WSFA Journal informed of any further developments. 


Nine Seconds Stood Between WSFA and the World's Record.


The fourth of July WSFA meeting did not take place at the Gillilands but instead at John Pomeranz's annual fourth of July party.  The meeting started at 9:33:54.  There was a motion to waive reports, there were no objections.  There was no old business, no new business, and the meeting was adjourned at 9:34.20.  Unfortunately, this was 26 seconds, nine seconds more than the record of .17 seconds.


Attendance: Pres John Pomeranz, VP Elspeth Burgess, Sec Samuel Lubell, Treas Bob MacIntosh, Joe, Dan, Keith, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and John Hancock.



Son of the Evil Overlord.

         (continued from previous issues)


51. I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.


52. Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.


53. I will offer oracles the choice of working exclusively for me or being executed.


54. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.


55. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.


56. I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.


57. I will not rely entirely upon "totally reliable" spells that can be neutralized by relatively inconspicuous talisman.


58. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say  "And here is the price for failure," then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.


59. If an advisor says to me "My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?", I will reply "This." and kill the advisor.


60. If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.


61. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.


62. If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.


63. My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.


64. I will make the main entrance to my fortress standard-sized. While elaborate 60-foot high double-doors definitely impress the masses, they are hard to close quickly in an emergency.


65. If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess' cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.


66. I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.


67. If the beautiful princess that I captures says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!"  I will say "Oh well" and kill her.


68. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.


69. The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.


70. My legions of terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.


71. Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner's manual.


72. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.


73. I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.


74. My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used.


75. If my advisors ask "Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?"', I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.


WSFA Journal Box of Correction:

The entity referred to in previous issues of this Journal as the Black Robe is really supposed to e the Black Rose.  So, I read a lot of fantasy books with villains in black robes hiding in the background.  Now, can you let me out of this correction box ...


What do you mean I need to say the safeword first!?!


Hey Kids!  Can You Unscramble This Meeting?!?


President John Pomeranz banged the meeting to order at 9:16 with these immortal words, "Someone tell the folk back here we're having a meeting if anyone cares." He then started singing and giving the weather report <It was a tornado warning so part of the meeting was held in the land of Oz.>

"I'm serious this time." He continued.  The treasurer's report was held in abeyance since the treasurer was held up.  <Fortunately, not by someone trying to rob our treasurer.>


Disclave past (Mike Nelson) said there was not much.  He turned over to Disclave upcoming the database with the new information from 97.  Joe asked for the final attendance count which was about 750.  He is doing a list of comps and finally got Whitey's list. The handover money will be done when the comp list comes.

Dis Future (Joe) has been in touch with the hotel.  Kevin and Michael are both gone.  There is no one there we've done business with <perhaps fortunately.>  There is a new general manager so still a chance that we can talk with them.  He did talk with a hotel that is interested in us.  <You want our hotel to do WHAT!  Very interesting...>  This is the Holiday Inn in College Park.  We've never been there, but it was the site of the last Unicon <by Peter Beagle?>.  They have an indoor pool.  They have less function space but it is more flexible.  There are only four floors with 200 sleeping rooms.  There is lots of parking and it is very safe.  They are serious about security and has a man sit in the parking lot.  They can close the hotel to anyone else if we are there only guest.  It isn't really close to other eating places for walkers but lots with a car.  There is a liquor store.  However, they couldn't offer us Memorial day.  They did offer the first of May <Mayday! Mayday!> 

There will be a kick-off party at Joe's brother's house from 11:30 until the cops come.  This will be a time to schmooze and talk about what WSFA is and Disclave can be.  I think we should do a party every year.  Get involved.  He's trying to make all the officers of Disclave be people active in WSFA.  It's WSFA's convention.  I'd like to make this Memorial Day weekend but we got on it because Joe Haldeman asked hotels for their slowest weekend.  Memorial Day is no longer the slowest weekend.  We might not have any hotel on Memorial Day. Disclave is a party for SF fans and everything else flows from it.

Joe revealed that he doesn't know his brother's phone number.  Erica got it from a phone book while Joe gave directions which would be a month late if I typed them up here. 

Dis Far Future (Sam Pierce) was not here.

The entertainment committee said that Starr's investigation is going on in Doonesbury.  The Gillilands received an invitation to a party to say Welcome Home to those on Hale-Bop.

Dan Hoey said he has been married for three weeks.  "And there were those who said it wouldn't last."  "Is she a Hoey?"  "Yes"  Everyone yelled "Ahoy!"

Joe revealed that the Hugo category of fan artist is cursed.  "The moral is, don't draw cartoons."  Erica corrected him, "Don't draw good cartoons."  "I tried!" mourned Joe.

Chuck Divine's Sputnik party is still being planned for October 4th

Perrianne Lurie said, "I'm back."  Her new address is [censored] Annapolis MD 21401  (410) 626-8454 and at [censored]  She announced that she is the director of communicable diseases for Anne Arundel county.  <Those seated near her leaned carefully in the opposite direction.>

New people were present Rich and Garret. 

Disclave Far Future (Sam Pierce) came in.  He had nothing new to report.

The treasurer (Covert) came in 30 seconds before we adjourned.  Club played 20 questions.  The balance was $4,079.70 and the mysterious hat was indeed Covert's. 

The meeting ended at 9:47.


People with too much time on their hands: Pres. John Pomeranz, VP Elspeth Burgess, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh (late), Trust. Eric Jablow, '98 Chair Joe Mayhew, '98 Chair Sam Pierce, Covert Beach, Chuck Divine, Darrin Dowty, Alexis and Lee Gilliland, Erica Ginter, Joe Hall, Dan Hoey, Dick and Nicki Lynch, Keith Marshall, Walter Miles, Kathi Overton, Evan Phillips, Juan Sanmiguel, George Shaner, Michael Taylor, Perrianne Lurie, Brian Lewis, Richard Pugh, Garrett Elliott



SCI-FI Books to Be Updated.


It has come to the attention of publishers that many science fiction books have become out-of-date. Not wanting this to happen to our favorite genres they have commissioned rewrites in accordance with modern sensibilities and '90s concerns.


1.      Newt Messiah - The rise and fall of a modern profit.  On the planet Rackemup, a young Newt becomes the last hope of the exiled Publicans, only to wind up blinded and sent into the wilderness. The second book of the Doomed Trilogy.


2.      The Habbit - Druggies in the kingdom of Murder searching for the One Stash to Rule Them All.


3.      The UPS Trucks Must Roll - Heinleinesque action heroes battle strikers to keep the brown trucks rolling.


4.      Groan and Gasp - The soundtrack from the room on the fourth floor of Disclave.


5.      The Snow Queen - Ice maiden on the dating scene gets her comeuppance. 


6.      The Stars My Destination - Television crew chases the stars, in Hollywood.


7.      The Square Root of Man - School budget cuts force biology class to be combined with math class.  Students learn multiplication and cell division.


8.      The PAC TrilogyPac, Pac and Empire, the Second Pac.  In the first book a new political action committee takes over the galaxy through its knowledge of future political events. In the second book the Pac is itself taken over by donkey.  In the third book a second Pac emerges with deadly powers of mind control to thwart campaign finance reform.


9.      Little Fuzzy - Horrific deaths on strange planet are due to cute, knee-high werewolfs.


10.  A Midsummer's Tempest -  Bill Shakespeare's back.  And this time he's killing everyone who abridged his plays or changed their setting.


Do You Believe in Space Aliens?


If you believe in space aliens, you are not alone.  A poll by The Washington Post (7/27/97) revealed that half of all Americans believe that there is "at least a chance" that intelligent aliens from outer space have visited Earth.  One in four think that aliens are living on Earth today. Incredibly 17% think that the Pathfinder Mars mission was faked.



It's All in the Mind


Science fiction once seemed full of telepaths and other people with wild mental talents.  Today, such powers seem rarer in science fiction and more the stuff of fantasy.  Or are they.  Brenda W. Clough's How Like A God straddles both genres, seemingly science fiction for much of the book until the time comes to provide an explanation.

The book is the story of a man who has an almost perfectly normal life with two cute kids and a wife who loves him.  He almost completely ignores the fact that a bus driver went into convulsions moments after leaving his wife at the bus stop.  Gradually Rob discovers he has the power to understand people's personalities, then to read their minds, finally to control them.  At first he uses this power for small things, having his co-workers forget an embarrassing incident, assigning blame to someone else, and curing a homeless person.

But when his wife finds out about the power, his life becomes a nightmare as she urges him to use it to give her a promotion.  Then, a fireman gets serious hurt trying to search a burning workplace for him, because Rob used his powers to make everyone think he was still at work (so he could skip out and cure an entire prison). Worse of all, his powers are starting to make his young children super-smart.  To save his family Rob runs away, and becomes a drifter and homeless person himself using his powers to just commandeer food and shelter.

Clearly, Clough has a dark picture of how power can corrupt and reveal the monstrous side of a person's soul.  Or perhaps she remembers that for every comic book hero who uses his powers for good there are dozens of villains.  Still, it makes the hero not very likable, at least until he encounters someone even worse. 

While part of the fun of the book is to see Rob experimenting with his powers (and he befriends a scientist who can help him), an equally crucial element is the development of his soul.  He moves into a homeless shelter and rapidly helps it become successful, not through use of his special powers but through his talents as a handyman.  He learns to control his powers by going to gambling halls and trying to lose.  Then the real weirdness begins and a book that until this point could have been science fiction takes an abrupt shift into fantasy.

This is not a book for everyone.  If you ever daydreamed about having powers and doing good, this book may shatter your illusions.  But for those cynics who always wondered if Superman had a different costume to wear when he needed to go out and grab some cash, this might be just perfect for you.


Emma Bull's Finder (Tor $4.99) is definitely fantasy. It is set in the Borderlands, a town where our reality and Faerie meet. The main character is a young man with the strange power to find things even when the owner has no clue where they are.  But the novel is actually a mystery about the spread of a strange drug that makes people think they are elves and makes the elves all turn sick.  The man, Orient, is hired to help the police find the killers, falls in love with the policewoman pursuing the investigation, and makes several obvious mistakes along the way. All along he acts like a tough guy while really being somewhat soft emotionally inside (your classic Pulp detective in other words.)  It may be because this is a sharecropped universe (from Terri Windling's anthologies and Will Shetterly's books) but the quality of Finder is nowhere near the standards set in her earlier War for the Oaks which I recommend you find and read twice before you even consider this one. 


Feghoot visits the orchestra

by Jim Goldfrank


Ferdinand Feghoot was conducting the Ganymede Philharmonic in a rehearsal. A visiting friend had come along to listen, and watch Feghoot's conducting technique. Suddenly, he spied two brass male organs in the hands of the percussionist.  He told Feghoot.  "I am shocked. This is an insult to the dignity of the orchestra and an affront to the audience." Just then the percussionist smashed the two organs together with a satisfyingly loud crash.  "You see," said Feghoot. "There is no harm or insult here. These are only phallic cymbals."





More On the TRYS Drive


Alexis Gilliland

So in the March issue of TWJ I revised the TRYS (Thrust Reaction Yields Spin) drive theory for "the last time." Ah, well. I was young and foolish then. Or at least operating in the theoretical (as opposed to the experimental) mode. Times change, and sitting on the piano in my rec room is an actual artifact, the spec sheet for which is included in this article. Reality says: Things take longer and cost more than you ever imagined. How true. Building the thing cost twice as much and took longer than estimated, and getting a permit to fire a gunshot within city limits ran into Disclave and got postponed. Eventually we talked with the police, and then the Commonwealth Attorney, who refused to issue a permit to conduct the test in my basement, but referred me instead to Clark Bros. in Warrenton, a gun shop with a firing range in back. So I called them up, talking with a lady who said sure, as long as the weapon isn't automatic. Fine, says I, what we have is a muzzle loading fuselock. And Saturday, May 31st, I loaded up the car and drove down to Warrenton with Kathi Overton and her video camera to actually run the experiment and record the event for posterity. Only, of course, that pistol/wheel mounted on its little skateboard inspires all sorts of dread, apprehension, and alarm. I went up the chain of command until I got to talk to Mr. Clark, a man about my age, a little shorter but with more hair. And we discussed the matter. The deal: Call us up when you're ready to come out, and after the range closes (at 5PM) you can test the thing, but you'll have to sign a waiver excusing Clark Bros. from lawsuits. So the test is pending, as soon as the test crew can get together down in Warrenton.

In the meantime, I have had time to sit and stare at the apparatus, the p/w subsystem mounted on the skateboard to make the p/w/s system, and the real, solid artifact is different from the theoretical abstraction. For one thing, it should answer my question authoritatively. For another, it makes you wonder what could go wrong. Will the pistol burst? No. The design is very conservative. Will the bullet bounce out of the bullet catcher? No. The bullet is a lead ball, 0.45" in diameter, going into a 5 5/8" deep cup, 1.25" wide at the mouth and 0.50" wide at the base. The bullet will deform, not bounce. Will the bullet catcher shatter? Probably not, the bullet catcher is steel, 1.00" in diameter, with a 0.500" hemispherical cup which is 3/8" thick at the thinnest point. At no place are the walls of the bullet catcher thinner than 1/8". Will the plastic mount marrying the tube of the pistol to the bicycle wheel fail? Probably not, especially since the wheel is free to move. Will the bullet miss the bullet catcher? No. We are aiming a 0.45" slug at a 1.25" hole from a distance of 4"; the maximum lateral motion while the ball is in the tube would shift the aiming point 0.04" off center. Nothing will go wrong, I tell myself, and to keep things from going wrong, I intend to wear safety glasses while performing the experiment.

Which brings us back to the theory. What do I expect to see when the experiment is performed? Using the numbers on the spec sheet, the maximum spin of the p/w subsystem should be 57 rpm and the maximum recoil of the p/w/s system should be 1.1 ft/sec. That is, if 100% of the recoil from firing the bullet went into spinning the p/w, the spin would be 57 rpm, while the p/w/s sat still. Contrariwise, if 100% of impact from catching the bullet went into moving the p/w/s, then the p/w/s would be moving in the direction of the bullet at 1.1 ft/sec. In March, I confidently asserted that the linear momentum imparted by the bullet would divide 50-50 between spinning the p/w and recoiling the p/w/s opposite to the direction of the bullet, so that after firing downrange (instead of into the bullet catcher) the p/w would spin at ~28 rpm, while the p/w/s would recoil at 0.55 ft/sec.

Well, maybe. A more sophisticated estimate would be that the momentum will divide as electricity divides in a parallel circuit, inversely proportional to the resistance. In this case, the resistance would be inertial resistance, which would have to be the respective masses of the two components. In the present case, 1/5 + 1/19 = 100%, where 100% = 20 ft-lbs/sec. For those without their calculators handy, 0.200 + 0.053 = 20 ft-lbs/sec, which works out to 15.8 ft-lbs/sec available to spin the p/w and 4.2 ft-lbs/sec to recoil the p/w/s. Which would set the p/w spinning at ~45 rpm, with the p/w/s recoiling at 0.23 ft/sec.

If we postulate the final state suggested by Dr. Sheffield and others, in which the p/w/s is at rest after catching the bullet, then the 20 ft-lbs/sec imparted by the bullet must be offset by 20 ft-lbs/sec of recoil when the shot is fired. Since this is all the linear momentum there is, then no momentum will be available to set the p/w spinning. Unless the p/w is locked, this is a manifest impossibility. Since the p/w is free to spin, the p/w/s must move in the direction of the bullet with the amount of linear momentum that was applied to the radius of the wheel to create the torque that imparted the angular momentum. What do I expect to see? An experiment, eventually, in which the p/w/s will move in the direction of the bullet with the p/w spinning. The only question is: How fast will they be moving and spinning? At the moment, I am inclined to an outcome with the p/w spinning at ~57 rpm as the p/w/s rolls along at 1.1 ft/sec. This has two action/reaction events, (a) fIring the bullet and (b) catching the bullet, with the virtue that (a) generates only angular momentum and (b) generates only linear momentum. We'll see what we see.