The WSFA Journal

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

Edited by Samuel Lubell

WSFA: Pictures at an Execution
Smithsonian Sequels
The WSFA and Disclave Railroad Chugs Away
Microsoft Nation
William Rotsler Dies
A Star Wars Guide to D.C.
New Writers

WSFA: Pictures at an Execution


The WSFA Meeting  for October 3, 1997 at the Gillilands' was called to order at 9:16.  Secretary Sam Lubell, needing to be absent, had asked Joe Mayhew to take the minutes.

            Bob MacIntosh said that the Treasury stood at $3,456.55. Michael Nelson said there would soon be another infusion into the club treasury from the 1997 Disclave.

            FIFTH FRIDAY PARTY IN OCTOBER: Lance Oszko will open his home to WSFA.

            TRUSTEES: The election of the Chair of the 2000 Disclave will be held after the second October meeting.  The trustees' candidate was Covert Beach.  Others can be nominated from the floor.

            Joe Mayhew reported on the WSFA photograph project. Evan Phillips has scanned 264 photographs using a very fine scan, as well as an index or catalog version with large thumbnails.  Joe has supplied captions identifying the year, events, people and other stuff, but needs further information (in some cases who took the photo.  As there are a number of nearly redundant pictures as well as some without much information in them, Joe and Evan will edit down a sample catalog and print it up to show around.  We need some of the characters identified, etc.  We are also asking for the loan of your WSFA related photos (color or b/w) which could be added to the electronic collection.

            No business was conducted. The meeting was adjourned at 9:40.


Attending:  Pres. John Pomeranz, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. & 97 Chair Mike Nelson, Trust. Michael J. Walsh, Trust. Eric Jablow, 98 Chair Joe Mayhew, 99 Chair Sam Pierce, Covert Beach, Bernard Bell, Dan Burgess, Darrin Dowty, Alexis Gilliland, Charles Gilliland, Lee Gilliland, Judy Kindell, Perrianne Lurie, Keith Lynch, Nicki Lynch, Richard Lynch, Keith Marshall, Kit Mason, Candy Myers, George Nelson, Lance Oszko, Peggy Rae Pavlat, Rebecca Prather, Dick Roepke, Juan Sanmiguel, George R. Shaner, Steven Smith, Victoria Smith , William Squire, Michael J. Taylor, Michael Watkins, Miles Weissman, Madeleine Yeh.



Smithsonian Sequels


The Smithsonian is currently doing a special exhibition for Star Wars. They already did one for Star Trek. What's next?  Here are is the WSFA Journal's list of suggestions.


1.     Books, remember them?  Why not an exhibition of good old fashioned SF.  And if you are worried about books not being exciting enough to draw in the crowds, we can arrange for the religious fundamentalists to look at some pulp magazine covers.


2.     Lost in Space. Hey if it's popular enough to have a movie made from it and reruns must still be showing somewhere?  Just don't let anyone named Smith in.  Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!  No need to worry about long lines and tickets for this one.


3.     Buck Rogers in the Polyester Century.  I'm sure those costumes are still around.  They aren't biodegradable.  Bittabittabitta.


4.     Space 1999. You could show it in 1999.  And follow it up a couple years later with an exhibition on 2001: A Space Odyssey.  


5.     Disney movies. Sure they're saccharine-sweet. But how many Americans know their fairy tales more from the sanitized Disney versions than the Grimm originals?  Save this one for when Disney buys out the federal government (assuming Microsoft doesn't beat them to it.)



The WSFA and Disclave Railroad Chugs Away


The 10/17 Third Friday at the Ginters was called to order at 9:15 with a "Hush up now!  Wow, you guys are real good tonight." From President John.  The treasury stood at $3,348.18.  "Where's our money from Disclave?"  "What do you mean your money?" asked Joe.

            Mike Nelson said "Well, we're going to hold an election for Disclave 2000, end of the century.  One person running,  Mr. Covert Beach."  There was a procedural question that was quickly resolved.

            Shawn Atkins was introduced to the club.  He found out about us from that web page. <Gee, we won't be a secret much longer if this keeps up."

            "This is how the bagpipe was invented" said Erica as she pet her cat.

            "Show us the money," said Michael Walsh.  Mike Nelson said he will investigate why it's taking Sam Pierce so long.  What's left will be transferred real  soon now."

            Joe said he has two members whose addresses came back. Evan Phillips has mock-ups of the four page flyer.  We might have a play written by Terry Bisson.  Joe still has staff positions open.  He has two volunteers to run the green room but the hotel won't let food be served there.  Disclave Far Future (Sam Pierce) wasn't there. 

Joe Mayhew has photos by Mike Nelson, and Evan, so if you want to see them, see him.  Will be printing them but are gaps.  Too many pictures of the same people.  If you donated pictures see Joe to get them back.  Evan hopes to burn in a CD with the pictures and put selected photos on the web.  See for the secret directory of pictures.

John said that we still have no Disclave Future.  "Disclave has no future?" Sam said aghast.  Sam Lubell forgot to print directions to Lance's place for the Fifth Friday.  Naughty, naughty.  Fortunately Erica had extra copies from last month.

John will have his traditional coughing up phlegm... "Was that throw a party or hurl a party" asked the other Joe.  "As I was about to say before I started coughing my lungs out," said John. "Was that we will be having our traditional haunted house, Fall of the House of Usher.  We would like lots of people to help out and hand out candy to frightened children."  Everyone laughed evilly.

Erica said that Philcon is not the third Friday so she will be here to host a third Friday party on the regular day.

There was no new business.  The meeting unanimously adjourned at 9:44.  It then reconvened for a trustee meeting.  The club meeting was immediately hit by railroad, and then, a minute later, after the smoke passed, found that it had elected Covert Beach the new Disclave head for 2000.  There were no other candidates.


Present at the meeting: Pres. John Pomeranz, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. Michael Nelson, Trust. Michael Walsh, '98 Chair Joe Mayhew.  Covert Beach, Erica Ginter, Eric Jablow, George Nelson, Barry and Judy and Meridel Newton, Lance Oszko, Juan Sanmiquel, George Shaner, Steven Smith, Michael Taylor, Beth and Mike Zipser, Kit Mason, and Sean Atkins.


Humor from the Internet:

Microsoft Nation

Bill Gates Buys America


REDMOND, Wash. - Oct. 25, 1997 -- In direct response to accusations made by the Department of Justice, the Microsoft Corp. announced today that it will be acquiring the federal government of the United States of America for an undisclosed sum.


"It's actually a logical extension of our planned growth", said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, "It really is going to be a positive arrangement for everyone".


Microsoft representatives held a briefing in the oval office of the White House with U.S. President Bill Clinton, and assured members of the press that changes will be "minimal". The United States will be managed as a wholly owned division of Microsoft. An initial public offering is planned for July of next year, and the federal government is expected to be profitable by "Q4 1999 at latest", according to Microsoft president Steve Ballmer.


In a related announcement, Bill Clinton stated that he had "willingly and enthusiastically" accepted a position as a vice president with Microsoft, and will continue to manage the United States government, reporting directly to Bill Gates. When asked how it felt to give up the mantle of executive authority to Gates, Clinton smiled and referred to it as "a relief". He went on to say that Gates has a "proven track record",and that U.S. citizens should offer Gates their "full support and confidence".  Clinton will reportedly be earning several times the $200,000 annually he has earned as U.S. president, in his new role at Microsoft.


Gates dismissed a suggestion that the U.S. Capitol be moved to Redmond as "silly", though did say that he would make executive decisions for the U.S. government from his existing office at Microsoft headquarters. Gates went on to say that the House and Senate would "of course" be abolished.


                                    SOLD!  (OUT)!


"Microsoft isn't a democracy", he observed, "and look how well we're doing".


When asked if the rumored attendant acquisition of Canada was proceeding, Gates said, "We don't deny that discussions are taking place".


Microsoft representatives closed the conference by stating that United States citizens will be able to expect lower taxes, increases in government services and discounts on all Microsoft  products.



About Microsoft:


Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers and democratic government. The companyoffers a wide range of products and services for public, business andpersonal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and moreenjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personalcomputing and free society every day.



About the United States:


Founded in 1789, the United States of America is the most successful nation in the history of the world, and has been a beacon of democracy andopportunity for over 200 years. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., theUnited States is a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation.




In Memorium:

William Rotsler, Hugo-Winning Fan Artist Dies


William Rotsler died on October 18th at the age of 71.  Rotsler had won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist four times, in 1975, 1979, 1996, and 1997 (plus a Retro-Hugo for 1946).  A writer in addition to being a cartoonist, he published his first SF story, "Ship Me Tomorrow," in Galaxy when he was 44 and his first novel four years, Patron of the Arts (1974).  He collaborated with Gregory Benford to write Shiva Descending.  His most recent book was 1995's collection of SF quotes called Science Fictionaries.


According to Science Fiction Week, Rotsler had recently had surgery for throat cancer and was staying at a friend's house in Southern California when he died in his sleep, according to reports.   He was born on July 3, 1926, in Los Angeles, California.



A Star Wars Guide to D.C.


Before assuming their new role as D.C.'s most popular tourist exhibit, the stars of the Star Wars movies were allowed one day to tour the town.  Of course they all visited the air and space museum, complaining about the shortage of X-Wings and Tie Fighters.  But after that they went their separate ways.



The emperor proceeded to the Senate, which he promptly dissolved.  "Do not underestimate the power of the emperor."  He spent the rest of the day trying to convince Newt Gingrich to wear a dark robes and a helmet that amplifies his breathing.  Meanwhile, Darth Vader was invited over to the white house for coffee (They had to get someone after the China premier left.) Bobbi Fett headed over to the FBI building to check out the wanted posters.  Lando Carrissian was invited over to Mayor Barry's house for dinner and a charm-off contest.


Luke Skywalker stayed the longest in the Air and Space museum, but then went to the George Washington Masonic National Temple. Chewbacca headed for the National Zoo. Princess Leia divided her time between the monuments to the great presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Roosevelt but did make a side trip to see the Robert E. Lee house.  Han Solo (calling a guy who is never seen without his sidekick a solo makes as much sense as giving a Lone Ranger a faithful Indian companion)  went where the money is-the treasury building (he thought about the IRS building but decided he wasn't that much of a crook.)  R2D2 and C3PO went to Arts and Industry Building and then to the Children's Museum. 



New Writers


            Buying a book you've not read before always involves some risk.  You might spend the money and not like the plot, or the style, or the pacing.  This is especially true in the fields of science fiction and fantasy where the author is expected to make up a whole universe.  Of course, Publishers do everything they can to reduce that risk.  Especially lately, they have turned to sequels, media tie-ins, endless series, and name-brand authors as ways to reassure readers that this will be something familiar, that if you liked book X2, it is safe to buy X3. Even when book is a stand alone volume, readers can go by the author's track record-authors usually maintain a certain range of quality and style. Recognizing this fact, bookstores have implemented tracking systems in which they use the selling figures from an author's last book as a way of determining how many to buy of his/her new one.

            But there is one case in which none of these apply-the first novel.  The first-time author has no record, nor previous books for this to be a sequel/next volume in a series (leaving aside tie-ins which lately have been going with experienced authors anyway.)  Publishers realize that without new authors, eventually there will be no new books. Moreover, those editors who became editors for the thrill of discovering the next Heinlein or Asimov sometimes come across a book by a new author that shows promise and so champion the book's passage through the perilous caverns of marketing decisions. 

Anyway, on rare occasions, a book by a brand new author does come out. This leaves the marketing folks with a big problem.  How do they inform the potential book buyer that the reason why they haven't heard of author X is because this is his first book, as opposed to a more experienced author who just never published anything the reader liked.  In other words, the bookstore patron, confronted by a wall of titles, looks for familiar names.  How does the publisher let the reader know that this unfamiliar name is special?

One way is to show that the publisher is especially committed to this book.  Del Rey does this through its Discovery series (it used to be Discovery of the Month, now it's of the Year). Warner has a similar program called New Aspect.  I don't know of a similar program at Tor, but with Kathya Reimann's first novel Wind from a Foreign Sky, they put glitter on the cover which makes it stand out (and which since it costs more than a regular cover, shows more of a commitment to the book than usual for a first novel). Ace published N. Lee Wood's Looking for the Mahdi with a cover that displays "A New York Times Notable Book" which for a first novel means it is definitely worth a look.  Of course the other way is to encourage reviewers to review the book (and I admit that I probably never would have reviewed Garth Nix's Sabriel if it wasn't sent to me for review.)

Wind from a Foreign Sky (Tor $6.99) is called Book 1 of the Tielmaran Chronicles (although the book does have a real satisfying conclusion, albeit one that leaves room for more adventures).  The book's front cover cites Terry Goodkind, the back has a reviewer's quote saying the book "follows in the footsteps of Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks" so it is clear the book is straightforward adventure fantasy.  What makes this book worth reading is the strong characterization of its female lead and a rich texture to the background. 

The plot starts out simple, a young woman with a low-level magic talent and something of an inferiority complex is chased by bad guys, rescued by the hero, told she is somehow the only one who stop the king's evil advisor from taking over the kingdom, and then has a series of adventures in which she (would it be giving things away to say good wins?)  Yet while the basic outline is familiar, Reimann includes many highly original details.  The hero (really more the lead male character, Gaultry is clearly the heroine and focus of the book), for example, is not really a nice guy, he's under a geas to protect both Gaultry and her twin sister.  However, since they both look alike, he twisted the geas into doubly-powerful bond to Gaultry alone.  And this geas of protection is too strong, he finds himself reacting to Gaultry's thoughts and feelings -but he's married!  Other interesting details include the threat to the kingdom, which Gaultry finds out to be (in part) herself and her sister through an extremely complex background.

Gaultry herself is a very strong character (fortunately since she, Martin, the villain, and briefly a fisher girl are really the only ones developed). She starts off the book thinking her sister can do everything better than she can, having a strong temper, and full of rough edges.  But she grows and matures in more ways than just learning magic.  Martin is a harder character to understand, simply because the author does an excellent job reminding the reader that a large part of his behavior is due to the unasked for geas.

Unfortunately, there are several holes in the plot.  For example, at one point Gaultry, a powerful magic user, a healer, and several fighting men are together and realize that Gaultry has to get to point b in order to fill the next several chapters before developing her magic potential.  But despite everyone knowing Gaultry is their only hope, the healer and magic user don't go along to help her out.  Still a new author can always learn how to patch plot holes.  A sense of background, the ability to create history that doesn't look as if it was created solely to move the plot, and strong characterization are harder to acquire and Reimann shows good command of these.  In short, if you are looking for a strong telling of a familiar plot with added bonus elements, Reimann will be to your taste.


N. Lee Wood's Looking for the Mahdi (Ace $5.99) the plot clicks, but the true excitement is in the voice of the first person character.  Looking is the near-future story of a ex-journalist who disguised herself as a man to report from Khuruchabja, a fundamentalist nation in the middle east.  She's happy working as an editor until a CDI (future's CIA) agent offers to become her source "son of Deep Throat" if she just delivers a package to the ruler of Khuruchabja.  That package turns out to be a fabricant, an artificial person.

"No problem," I said, eyes wide and innocently obtuse.  "I'll be happy to look up the number for Federal Express's Overnight Delivery. Give me a couple minutes, I'll go get it for you."

Laidcliff scowled. "I'm not amused," he said.

"You're not Queen Victoria, either," I snapped back, and stood up.  "And I'm certainly not a delivery boy, I'm a journalist. Khuruchabja isn't Jupiter, mail your g*ddamned package."  I jerked a thumb at the bubble head.  "Or send him.  After all, his Markundi is perfect-what the hell do you need me for?"

"You've got a valid passport," Arlando said.

That made absolutely no sense, until the bubblehead looked up and said quietly, "I'm the package."

To be a decent journalist, you've gotta know a lot about a lot, and put puzzles together fast.  I could practically feel the tumblers clicking into place in my brain.  John Halton was not a bubblehead.  He was, no pun intended, Government property.

The book is full of little moments like this, self-revelations that tell so much about the characters and their backgrounds.  John Halton, the fabricant, seems to alternate between being amused and being offended by being treated as not human.  Kay, the narrator, gets more and more involved both in John's life and in the goings on in Khuruchabja.  The plot features a mysterious microflake ("Oh goody... now we get to play international smugglers as well as spies."), betrayals, computer hacking, and a growing relationship between the fabricant posing as a human cameraman and the women posing as a male reporter.  They get involved in a revolution, unpleasant machinations by various intelligence agencies and double agents.  As the novel progresses, both their pasts eventually catch up with them and both characters are forced to confront what it means to be human and decide who they can trust. 

I strongly recommend this book.  It is not only an exciting spy thriller but a human drama as well.  The plot, characterization, narrative voice, and tone all mesh together extremely well.  Unlike many first person narratives, the voice of the narrator does not seem out of place for the personality the character's actions indicate.  Both characters grow (or at least change) in the course of the book.  The book clearly indicates that N. Lee Wood is a new author worth picking up.  I'm already looking for her next book.