The WSFA Journal

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

Edited by Samuel Lubell

Another Angle on an Old Favorite
Sprinkler Incident Still Haunts WSFA
Microsoft Frozen
Politics of Science Fiction
Favorite Halloween Tricks on the Moon
Trustees Disclose Covert Nomination

Another Angle on an Old Favorite


Once, after finishing a great saga, writers turned to something completely different.  Later, they began writing books similar to the great saga.  Then they started writing sequels to the saga.  Now, this trend has moved one step further from originality.  Eager to use up all their background notes from the writing of the saga and to let their readers revisit favorite (and familiar) characters, settings, and even scenes, science fiction writers have started to write "biographies" of their characters including the story that was already told in the saga.  This makes it different from the conventional prequel which tells of the events before the first book. These "biographies" include lots of information already revealed and not a whole lot that is new.  I'm thinking of David Eddings' Belgarath and presumably Polgara (both co-written with his wife.)  And I suspect McCaffrey's upcoming book about Masterharper Robinson will also tell a lot of what longtime readers of her Dragon books already know (albeit from a different angle.)


What if this trend continued/had started earlier?


R. Daneel by Isaac Asimov - Mind-reading robot tells all. He reveals his days as Lije Bailey's sidekick, revealing truths about the detective's claustrophobia, hidden secrets behind the creation of the empire, and the decadence of the emperors, and facts behind Hari Seldin that the Foundation doesn't want you to know.


Gandalf the Good by J.R.R. Tolkien - At last, all mystery is stripped from this unearthly figure. Be present for his banal birth! See his stupefying studies as every book he ever read is catalogued!  And relive the chance meeting with those little creatures the world will come to know as hobbits!


The Legend of Lazarus Long by Robert Heinlein. The story has been told in bits and pieces.  Now the entire history of this long-lived character is retold-in chronological order!



Sprinkler Incident Still Haunts WSFA

Ghost of Fourth Floor Flood Everywhere


September's first Friday meeting started on 9/5/97 at 9:15 at the Gillilands. John had to ask the time because he was watchless.  "No you're timeless."  "How much of our money did you spend at San Antonio?"  "None of yours," replied Treasurer Bob MacIntosh.  He confessed that there was $3,660.74 in the treasury.

Mike Nelson said the trustees have a candidate for Disclave chair but are still open for additional nominees for Disclave 2000.  He is waiting for the other trustees to show up before he names the nominee.  John said he was waiting with baited breath.  The election will be the third Friday in October.  John announced even if you weren't approached don't be upset, we're shy.  You can come to us.  John said the trustees will definitely name their candidate next meeting.  The entertainment committee reported making faces over cranberry cider.

Disclave '97 (Mike Nelson) had his 15 minutes of fame at the WorldCon.  The Panel on "Parasites or Part of Us: People who use SF Cons for their own purposes" spent 49 minutes discussing Disclave.  Only six people in an almost full room hadn't heard of the sprinkler incident.  They did have an asb member who had the room across from the flood room.  Mike hasn't heard of any more bills.  He expects to turn over $5,000 to Sam Pierce.  Pat Anthony said to say hi.  She had a wonderful time at Disclave and the story is now in her repertoire. 

Joe Mayhew Disclave '97 announced that the contract is signed.  The hotel is not asking for any corkage.  We can have a con suite on the top floor which ironically is the fourth floor.  [Lots of laughs].  Call it the overflow! Said Mike Nelson.  They will let us do a wet con suite with designer beer.  The con suite rooms are separated so not a Disclave but a new 640.  He will be forming a committee to look into the con suite.  The hotel is very friendly [pause] at this point [laughter.] He wants to have the party rooms near the con suite.  He will have an origami party at the first meeting in November and would appreciate more people helping. There are lots of holes.  We need to rethink the con.  We can't run last year's con is this year's hotel.

Mike said that WorldCon had a sprinkler incident a couple of days before the con because the convention center is being reconstructed.  They had to move programming around at the last minute. "They wanted to make us feel at home," a WSFAn commented.

Joe passed out flyers from the hotel with directions.  Keith Lynch said there were no directions for bicyclists or Metro. 

Disclave far future (Sam Pierce) was resting from his big drive.  Mike Nelson said that Robert Sawyer seems really nice.

John asked the group how many WSFAns were on your flight.  The Gillilands said they had three WSFAns and John and Kathi and Judy on their flight.  Joe told of an 11 hour flight on Southwest.

John said that Dick Lynch has a big phallus, curiously so does Niki.  They showed off their Hugo awards.  Dick thanked WSFA for their support and announced that they will be the 1999 NASFIC fan GoHs.  "It's a heavy piece of marble" said Dick.  Joe was asked to stand up, he declined.  Lost by only five votes. 

The meeting unanimously adjourned at 9:42.


Attendance:  Pres. John Pomeranz, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. Michael Nelson, '98 chair Joe Mayhew, Darrin Dowty, Alexis and Lee Gilliland, Charles Gilliland, David Grimm, Chris Holte, Nicki and Richard Lynch, Barry and Meridel Newton, Lance Oszko, Peggy Rae Pavlat, Rebecca Prather, George Shaner, Michael Taylor, Madeleine Yeh, Elizabeth Mellnik, Martin Morse Wooster.


Humor from the Internet:

Microsoft Frozen



You must first remove the plastic cover.  By doing so you agree to accept and honor Microsoft rights to all TV dinners.  You may not give anyone else a bite of your dinner (which would constitute an infringement of Microsoft's rights).  You may, however, let others know just how good it is.

If you have a PC microwave oven, insert the dinner into the oven.  Set the oven using these keystrokes:  <\mstv.dinn.//08.5min50%heat// Then enter: <ms//start.cook_dindin/yummy\|/yum~yum:-)gohot#cookme.   If you have a Mac oven, insert the dinner and press start.  The oven will set itself and cook the dinner.

            If you have a UNIX oven, insert the dinner, enter the ingredients of  the  dinner (found on the package label), the weight of the dinner, and the desired level of cooking and press start.  The oven will calculate the time and heat and cook the diner exactly to your specification.

            Be forewarned that Microsoft dinners may crash, in which case your oven must be restarted.  This is a simple procedure.  Remove the dinner  from the oven and enter: <ms.nodarn.good/tryagain\again/again.crap.  This process may have to be repeated.  Try unplugging the microwave and then doing a cold reboot.  If this doesn't work, contact your hardware vendor.

             Many users have reported that the dinner tray is far too big, larger than the dinner itself, and has many useless compartments, most of which are empty. These are for future menu items. If the tray is too large to fit in your oven, you will need to upgrade your equipment.

            Dinners are only available from registered outlets, and only the chicken variety is currently produced.  If you want another variety, call MicrosoftHelp and they will explain that you really don't want another variety.  Microsoft Chicken is all you really need.

            Microsoft has disclosed plans to discontinue all smaller versions of their chicken dinners.  Future releases will only be in the larger family size.  Excess chicken may be stored for future use, but must be saved only in Microsoft-approved packaging.

             Microsoft promises a dessert with every dinner after '98.  However, that version has yet to be released.  Users have permission to get thrilled in advance.

            Microsoft dinners may be incompatible with other dinners in the freezer, causing your freezer to self-defrost.  This is a feature, not a bug. Your freezer probably should have been defrosted anyway.





 WorldCon Wrap-Up Continued:

 Politics of Science Fiction

Note:  These come directly from my notes of the panel. The names may be misspelled and I may have mis-credited some statements.  But this should give you a sense of what the panel talked about.


The Politics of SF panel featured Alan Cole, Michael Flynn, Joe Haldeman, John Gibbons (moderator), Elizabeth Hull, Frederick Pohl.


Pohl described how he served as democratic committeeman and ran for corner in Monmouth, NJ.  He was campaign manager for his wife's congress run.

Elizabeth Hull (Pohl's wife) ran for congress.  She teaches SF at college where she uses Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers as examples of consciousness raising.  Whether or not you agree with the direction the characters take in these books, the transformation is interesting.  She is trying to get freshmen to move from not caring about politics.  This is usually because they can't understand it.  The reading can change things.

Joe Haldeman teaches Troopers and Dispossessed at MIT in a writing course.  He finds Troopers fascinating.  He disagrees with it but can't stop turning the pages.  It is a political argument interrupted by a few action scenes. Dispossessed is brave because it incorporates failure.

Flynn cited his own book Firestorm.  Politics is usually presented as simpleminded.  It is told by people on the outside or who have a simplistic outlook.  The truth is messier.  Opponents usually are shown as overly simple with a single-minded view. Writers need to remember that the opposite side has reasons for their beliefs.  He too was a Democratic committee-member.  It is very easy to do.  He rose in ranks and became a second district councilman and saw some politics from the inside.

Cole called himself a political junkie.  He was raised in California and spent 14 years in journalism.  He cited his own Stim series and very political.  He is now working with a Russian co-author on a novel assuming the cold war never ended.  He thinks politics is corrupt at all levels.

Gibbons said he worked in several campaigns and did computer work.  This emerged in his story Voice of the People.  He cited Double Star (Heinlein) about an actor who goes into politics.  He pointed out that Heinlein ran for state legislature in California.

Pohl said that both novels he cited describe attaining utopias through political means although both authors trash them-Le Guin in the same book (Dispossessed) while Heinlein did it when he returned to the moon a few years later (Cat Who Walked Through Walls?)  The ideas is that nothing you can do makes a difference.

Hull responded that he doesn't find them that pessimistic.  They warn that if we aren't active we can lose what those who went before us have done.  SF charges us to become involved in politics.

Gibbons said that Heinlein is saying true freedom depends on a the frontier and has to go out further.  [The Turner frontier thesis]

Pohl called Heinlein a troglodyte [he's one of the few with enough stature to get away with it.  No one in the crowd started stoning him.]  But he has read ever word Heinlein has written with pleasure. Well, maybe not the last couple of novels [The crowd laughed.]  SF is ecumenical because we can read people with different views and still find the book interesting.  He described an incident in which a professional politician whose candidate lost a race to a reformer said he wasn't worried because reformers go in at a white heat, make drastic changes, but then go back into their boroughs and let us take over again.

Haldeman called himself an anarchist and said he doesn't think politics will answer our concerns in an era of rapid technological growth.  The center cannot hold.  He doesn't think there will be a revolution, but, as with the Internet, some management system will just appear and our governments will become just like the European monarchy.

Hull said that Fred was too modest to mention his book Years of the City.  Pohl said that book is about how politics can make life better.  I'd like to see the 5% solution, by which for spending 5% you can decide where the money was spent.  After paying a $30,000 tax bill, he found that this was about the cost of a Reagan aide's ski trip.  He proposed a Congress chosen by lot.  Someone protested that this would let scoundrels and crooks in [everyone laughed] but this way they wouldn't be beholden to anyone.

Hull said that she was the token woman present.  We've not been involved in politics in proportion to our numbers. I'd like to see more SF with women in political activities, but see very little of this.  Maybe because it is not as exciting as war.  In politics if you do your job right, nothing happens. Yes, you do listen to lots of people talk but I think women are good at helping people find ways to live together. I'd like to see authors make this exciting.  There was once a long conference at Ted Turner's news channel trying to find a way to show peace breaking out.

Pohl said that he once thought women would be kinder and smarter leaders. Then Maggie Thatcher and Indira Ghandi came along.  I had the same theory that if American politicians would read science fiction instead of westerns, the world would be a better place.  Then came Newt Gingrich.

Hull said that she wrote a story in which her granddaughter became president. We tend to think that politics can't do anything that it hasn't already done.  I'd like to see some SF that shatters these beliefs.

John Gibbons said that politics can build societies.  He describes the politics in various authors' Mars novels. In Moving Mars both leaders [on opposite sides] are women.

Flynn said that when politics works, there is no news.  So the newspapers tend to make everything a crisis in order to make a better story.  This leads to politicians being seen as saviors.  Before the rapid press, government was seen as managerial. A few real crises were real.

Cole added that the problem came with the rise of the civil service act. Before that, corruption was legal but they needed your vote.  Now corruption is nationalized.  Money comes from PACs and such.  Only a few people vote so they prefer that voters be apathetic?

A person from the audience asked, "What about politics outside current U.S. politics?  What about direct democracy?"

Haldeman said that people had postulated an electronic democracy in which it would be easy for people to make their voice known.

Pohl replied that this would be just button pushing.  We need a way to frame the issue like Greek town meetings. We need a way for people to act in making legislation, not just voting for it.  The technology for this exists now.  We see this in SFWA where lots that goes on is determined by the web. 

Hull said that aside from hearing the debate, democracy depends on an educated public.  People need an introduction to scientific thinking and a broad humanistic background that allows people to say what if this was me.  You can't explain a complex issue in sound bites.  You need people who understand cause and effect and interdependency.

Cole said that we are all assuming that democracy is the greatest thing. But if you had a democracy in an anthill, everyone would die.  Athenian democracy depended on slaves.  The government that governs best, governs the least.  If you impose a democracy on a tribal culture, they already got something that works for them.

Hull quickly responded with it works for those in power.  What about the slaves?  What about women?

Haldeman asked if Cole was saying that these people aren't ready for democracy? Democracy at least gives the illusion that everyone has a say.

Pohl quoted Churchill saying that democracy has only one advantage, it is better than any other form of government.

Flynn said that if you define corruption as not being perfect, all will be corrupt.  You can't be in politics without breaking some law.  Is that really corruption?

A member of the audience said that Heinlein in Moon said that yammer heads took over.  Everyone in the audience had left.  Then someone else said that there is a difficulty in presenting the other side fairly.

Hull said she had learned in successful committee work, you try to reach a mutual solution.  Haldeman said that if you present all sides, you lessen the dramatic tension. 











Favorite Halloween Tricks on the Moon

1. Relabel the signs for the airlock

2. Construct a giant monolith and set the sound system to play "Also Sprach Zarathusa"

3. Rewire mission control to play the sound track from old episodes of Space 1999

4. Bob for apples in the zero G chamber

5. Dress up as lunatics


Trustees Disclose Covert Nomination


The Third Friday meeting took place at the Ginters on September 19th, 1997 at 9:20.  "Hey it's time to do this.  Ahoy in the kitchen."  It then took a while for everyone to flood in.  The third Friday meeting was called to order "at a very late 9:20, I'm sorry." There was no old business and the treasury stood at $3,570.  "Let's have a party," said Perrianne, half-heartedly.

Disclave '97 (Mike Nelson) said that Sam Pierce is wrapping out accounts. They just got $300 from Ace.  As soon as Sam finishes whatever, they will give us the money.  Disclave Next (Joe Mayhew) visited the hotel, measuring with Walter Miles.  He gave his committee list, some jobs were without names.  He is chair, Chair apparent is Sam Pierce.  Vice chair for Huxter affairs is Michael Walsh.  When Joe mentioned how short of space the hotel is, Erica volunteered her home as the green room.  He needs someone to coordinate the con suite.  The Baltimore room has a sink so will be where beer is served.  The other room is much bigger so can be the home of the soda machine.  He needs a way of coordinating the two rooms.  Also needed is someone to do rentals and someone to get groceries. Keith Marshall will be soda guru but we need someone to do beer.  The Koffee Klatches will be at the bar.  The hotel doesn't allow people to smoke in the function rooms but will have to check to find out if they can smoke in the bar. 

There are still lots of open slots.  One important position...  "Sprinkler repairman?" interrupted John.  No, the position of host.  He wants there to be people whose job it is to be nice, be the friendly older brother and make people happy.  It will be a crowded convention and programming will probably be full.  I'll ask people to serve as host.  Not the politeness patrol but to make people more pleasant.  VP Elspeth asked how far apart are the two con suite rooms.  They are seven rooms apart said Joe.  He wants all the other rooms on that floor to be either staff or party.  The con rooms don't have room for couches nor will there be a wall.  Peggy Rae donated bags so we can stuff <No I don't know what he means by that either.>  He realizes that some people can't schedule in advance but won't conflict. 

Trustees then gave their report.  Michael Nelson woke up and said  "hello, I'm your trusty trustee."  "I don't trust him," said George Nelson.  "I'm so glad that Judy's here" the master of misdirection continued. "I'd like to announce our candidate is Covert Beach."  President John said that other pigeons may volunteer to be shot upon.  The third Friday of October will be the vote. Other nominations will be taken.

There actually was new business.  Lance observed that there will be a fifth Friday in October, namely Halloween.  He offered his abode for a holographic Halloween party in Alexander.  There were no objections and the motion passed by acclimation. 

Erica said there was the possibility of a conflict with the third Friday meeting in November, namely Philcon.  In past years the meeting during Philcon weekend has drawn as many as ten people.  John said that if you've always wanted to host a WSFA meeting, but had a one room apartment, this is your chance.

Mike Walsh said that the first two Lensmen books will pop out September 29th.

John offered to show the Japanese videotape of Pirates of Fenzance  He did.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:45.

In attendance:  Pres. John Pomeranz, VP Elspeth Burgess, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. Michael Nelson, Trust. Michael Walsh, '98 Chair Joe Mayhew, Covert Beach, Bernard Bell, Chris Callahan, Steve desJardins, Darrin Dowty, Alexis and Lee Gilliland, Erica and Karl Ginter, Joe Hall, Judy Kindell, Perrianne Lurie, Nicki and Richard Lynch, Walter Miles, George Nelson, Lance Osko, Peggy Rae Pavlat, Juan Sanmiguel, George Shaner, TR Smith, William Squire, Michael Taylor, Madeleine Yeh, Beth and Mike Zipser, Steve Lebantz, Betsy Barber.