The WSFA Journal

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

Edited by Samuel Lubell

The Business of the Holidays
Crimes and Misdemeanors
1997 Gifts for SF Writers
State of Publishing:  A Philcon Panel
Top 12 Reasons Why Hanukkah is Better Than Christmas
For Marylanders Only
No Address
New Writers

Humor from the Internet:

The Business of the Holidays


Subject: Re-engineering has finally hit The North Pole

Date: Wednesday, December 3, 1997 3:42 PM


The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole.

Streamlining is due to the North Pole's loss of dominance of the season's gift distribution business. Home shopping channels and mail order catalogues have diminished Santa's market share. He could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.

 The reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO's annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Harvard Business School, is anticipated. Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has received unfavorable press.

I am pleased to inform you that Rudolph's role will not be disturbed.  Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole. Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph's nose got that way, not from the cold, but from substance abuse. Calling Rudolph "a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load" was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa's helpers and taken out of context at a time of year when he is known to be under executive stress.

As a further restructuring, today's global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" subsidiary:

The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.

 The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated.

The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French.

The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is under way to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked.

The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.

The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one.

The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are  on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some  new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement prospects.

As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the work force is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching.

Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.

Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work congressmen. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed congressmen this year.

Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.

We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.

Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorney's association seeking expansion to include the legal profession ("thirteen lawyers-a-suing") action is pending.

Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. Should that happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.

Happy Holidays!


 Crimes and Misdemeanors


The November First Friday WSFA meeting met at the Gillilands at 9:16 PM on November 7th.  President John opened the meeting with a "Husha your mouths por favor"  He tried to impress the club with his multilingual skills "three years in L.A., You'd think I'd have learned something."  The meeting was called to some semblance of disorder.

            The treasurer reported $3,147.95 pesos.  This balance did not please our president, "What's the hold up?" he asked. "My treasurer ran off with the cash," reported Mike Nelson, Disclave '97.  "Dan Hoey's check hasn't cleared," reported Sam Pierce.  But this didn't satisfy our illustrious leader. "I'm planning on absconding with the funds and this is holding up my plans," complained John. "You'll have to get them past Mac In Cash," joked Joe.  "I've got photos," said our blackmailing president.  "But I don't care if he publishes," said our trusty treasurer.

.           Mike Nelson says that John looks like Tim Currey in Over the Top.

            Joe Mayhew cleverly distracted everyone from the fact that it was his turn to discuss Disclave by spilling a diet Coke.  He has flyers he needs help stamping and distributing.  There will be two events at the convention,  "Only two!" yelled a WSFAn.  Friday night there will be a dance around the theme the Bears Discover Fire. Saturday night there will be a play "Incident at Oak Ridge" by Terry Bisson that features his cruel sense of humor. We are expanding our on-site publications with a longer newsletter with space for people who disagree.  It is strange to have a publication to be read at the con.  Walter Miles will be Bisson's liaison.  Lee Gilliland will be the frat mother to the con suite.  Mike Nelson will be the official photographer.  Lee asked for a big space on the badge to write her name.  Joe promised it would be the size of Evan's thumb.  The badge is not for the art; you want something complicated and hard to duplicate {but we live in the age of the Xerox machine} but that leaves room for a name.  After the meeting we will have an origami party to which everyone is Kurdishly invited.

            Disclave 99 had nothing to report.  Neither did Disclave 2000 other than to say that Judy Kindell will be Secretary and Vice-Chair.  Will we have a bug free 2000?

            The entertainment committee arranged for an election.  You win some, you lose some.

            New business?  NO!

            There will be a Dec 20th party at Rebecca's. G. Harry Stine passed away.  Lee "on the right" Strong has plagued the D.C. area for 20 years.   Joe's forceful motion caused adjournment at 9:40.


WSFAns present: Pres. John Pomeranz, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Trust. Michael Nelson.  '98 Chair Joe Mayhew, '99 Chair Sam Pierce, 2000 Chair Covert Beach, Bernard Bell, Darrin Dowty, Alexis Gilliland, David Grimm, Judy Kindell, Keith Lynch, Keith Marshall, Lance Oszko, Kathi Overton, Evan Phillips, Rebecca Prather, Juan Sanmiguel, George Shaner, Lee Strong, Michael Taylor, Michael Watkins, Madeleine Yeh. 



1997 Gifts for SF Writers

 Robert Heinlein:  A spinner to spin in the grave.

L. Ron Hubbard: A typewriter in the sky to keep churning out books despite the somewhat inconvenient fact of being dead.

Isaac Asimov:  An endless succession of "B" writers willing to "partner" on still more Foundation books.

E.E. Doc Smith - A small press publisher willing to bring the Lensmen back into print.  (So he got his present a little early)

Charles Dickens (hey, he wrote ghosts in his Christmas Carol) - The right to haunt the makers of the "updated" Great Expectations movie.

Arthur C. Clarke - A calendar to hand out to those who will celebrate the millennium in 2000 not 2001.

John Campbell - An analog computer

Pamela Dean - A publisher who will keep her books in print

New Authors - A revival of the backlist

David Brin - A reminder, the Postman always rings twice. 


State of Publishing:  A Philcon Panel

Speakers included: G. Van Gelden, David Hartwell, Scott Edelman, Jennifer Jackson, Eleanor Lang, Katlin Blythdale, Craig Engler.

Note: I scribbled down notes as fast as I could, but I may have missed something or misattributed who said what.  Please do not take this as Holy Writ.


Scott Edelman announced that he is now editing SCI FI Entertainment as well as SF Age.

JJ: What do we need to understand publishing

DH: Sex and money, art and aethestics, and economics.

KB: Two poles, economic and aethestics are closely linked but broader

EL: Economics must drive other decisions.  The bottom line is money.  Is the book selling.  The job of the publisher is to take a good book and see how he can make money from it.

CE:  I work for, a whole new way of getting books. What does SF Weekly, an electronic new way of getting information about books.

SE: SF publishing looks good for me.  I'm editing three magazines.  More good SF today than is possible to read, but gloomier for writers.  Paper prices drove people crazy when doubled.

 EL:  SF advances are not huge, but more midlist SF authors are making a living than midlist writers elsewhere

DK: But there are fewer SF midlist writers now then a few years ago before the cutbacks.

[There was a debate over media tie-ins and work for hire, does that count as backlist?]

JJ: Is that there are too many media tie-ins?

DH:  I have three opinions.  Most tie-ins are poorly executed.  The structures on it prevent it from being done well.  We did Battlestar Galatica and Star Wars.  We had to fight the studios for control. There are a lot more structures now than used to be.  You don't look for the one great Star Trek book any more than you look for the one good can of Campbell's soup.

GVG:  Packaged.  I don't see anything wrong with that.  Some are good, some bad, all are satisfying.  Those who say tie-ins are damaging SF should look back to the 50s and Tom Swift.  There is no difference.

KB: Writers are trying their best.  It's the studio's universe so we have to play by their rules.  The problem is that what makes a good book is different from what makes a good movie.  It is hard to get Hollywood to see that.

GVG:  Norman Spinrad warned of the dangers of tie-ins taking over. But he's been saying the same thing since the 70s.  It is a good way of getting new writers to learn their craft.

JJ:  Tie-ins sometimes brings in new readers too. The problem is, they take up certain slots.  It is hard for writers to get known under their own name.

SE:  From editor's perspective the fact that the author has done tie-ins doesn't matter, it's the story.  Even without the tie-ins, there is more SF now than when I was a boy. Maybe they are harder to find, but there are more good books now than ever before.  Besides, tie-ins are not by new writers anymore.  They are mostly by mid-list writers who have shown they can produce a book.

DH.  In early 90s, Gaming companies tried to get new writers by saying they could build their careers through tie-in novels.  It didn't work.  Readers look for the Star Trek name, not the author.

SE:  It didn't hurt Craig Shaw Gardner (sp?) to put New York Times best-selling author on his covers due to the Batman novelization.

GVG:  Tie-ins are only ¼ to 1/3 of the SF bookshelves. There are always slots for good novels.

GE:  Kevin J Anderson made a big name for himself from the Star Wars books.  Publicists use author's Star Trek books to promote their other books.

Audience: Tie-ins are not shelved with the others in most bookstores.

KB:  But drugstores etc. have limited shelves.  So tie-ins are competing with other books.  But tie-in novels let publishers print other novels just like Tor uses Robert Jordan's sales to fund other writers' books.

DH:  That's a choice.  Like using Gor novels to support other authors.

JJ:  As an agent, I think the state of SF is good.  I am optimistic.  It was gloomier a few years ago.  But are we reaching for a new edge?  Pushing the envelope  the way SF used to?  Are we still do this?

SE:  Pushing the envelope?

JJ:  Are we still speculating?

 SE:  There are always writers doing new things, but looking at the marketplace to see if they can.  This is like the blacklist. Abe  Polinsky said that the worst thing to do is to blacklist yourself. Authors sometimes worry they won't get published if too off-beat.

JJ:  Writers ask editors what are you looking for.  This is the worst question.  It's what I wasn't looking for that keeps me up till 3 AM

SE:  In a magazine there are many voices so if one story doesn't work, you can read the others.  With novels it is harder, they have to stand on their own.

DH:  There are lots of interesting experimental authors who can't get published. R.A. Lafferty gave up.  He has 7-8 unpublished novels.  His writing was unique but he retired.  There is also the problem of writers whose work couldn't get published at a certain time, like Pangborn's gay novel.

EL:  I am constantly being surprised and thrilled at all the good books out there.  I can't possibly read everything.

Audience:  What about the case of Norman Spinrad who has made a stir on the Internet?

GVG:  I turned the book down, even for a dollar.  I didn't like it enough to publish it.  Norman's claim for why Bantam won't publish him is misleading.  His claim is that Bantam won't publish it because his last book didn't sell well in the chains.  This is only part of the story.  His new book is 900 manuscript pages.  It is hard to make money on a book that size.

DH:  I had long discussions with Norman.  It isn't really a SF novel but a novel about a SF writer.   Norman wants someone to publish it and make it a best seller.  Also, no one wanted to buy his SF novel for as much as he wanted due to low sales.

Audience asked a question about distributors.

DH:  In 1995, there were over 200 distributors.  Now there is only 22.  A Canadian company owns most of the book distribution in the South.

EL:  But the independent distributors are a very small market.  The drugstores will take the Jurassic Parks, but not the books we look for in the dealer's room. 

GW: Freud said that if a book is good it will sell, if it isn't it will sell well.  Things have settled down.

Audience member (Sam Lubell) asked about the case of Robin Hobb and why authors take second identities.

DH:  It is not unique.  Many writers do this.  You can have a decent survival career without increasing sales and distribution because everyone orders based on how well your last three books did.  But if you go in as a new name with no track record but with all your knowledge and experience about writing, and position yourself at the top of the list.  Your agent and publisher have to agree but it can be done.  Robin Hobbs sells far better than Megan Lindholm (sp?) ever did.

Audience asked about magazines.

SE:  Some circulations are up, some down.  I'm publishing more magazines and there are fewer magazines in the market so my share has increased.  I'm smiling.

GVG: All the digests are sinking, relying on subscriptions.  The digests don't really get newsstand distribution.

SE:  They are expanding the size of Analog and Asimov's to be the size of their crossword puzzle magazines with an additional inch on each side.  There will be fewer pages but more words.  Magazine distributors don't know where to put the digests but they do have slots for crossword sized magazines.

CE: The stuff I do didn't exist a few years ago.  Electronically there is no distribution problem but it is an economic problem.

An audience member asked about more books coming out in hardback and then going into trade without any paperback at all.  Some lines are doing small sized hardbacks. 

GVG:  Almost none of the books I do go into mass market.  In 50s, when pulps were in their heyday, you could buy 8-10 paperbacks for the cost of one hardback.  Now it is 4 PB for one HB so the benefit of PB is down.

EL:  We are doing more trades.  Chains are having better luck with them and can keep them on the shelves longer than regular paperbacks.

DH:  Due to distribution problems, more books went into trade.  Publishers need two editions to write off the cost of the book.  Everyone is interested in getting the trade format better established because it would provide an alternative.  Weird HB sizes are a risk.  If they work, you can make a lot of money but few do.

KB: These are driven by the success of Bridges of Madison County. People look at that, and say, let's do that.

CE:  People like trade paperbacks if they want to keep it around.  When they came out with trade PB of Canticle for Leiberwitz people who liked it ran out and bought it to have a permanent copy.  They didn't want to pay $24 for a HB, but $12 for a trade was a happy medium.

DH:  There is a wide range in paper quality and binding. Reviewers will be more likely to review a book if it is HB or a really nice trade.

CE:  A nice trade edition will catch my eye.

GVG:  A lot of books up for Campbell award are trade.  If they aren't and win, publishers will reprint them in trade.

EL:  In trade, it is easier to go back and reprint smaller numbers so people thought there would be fewer returns.  But distribution hasn't caught up.

[There was a discussion over Avon putting ads in fancy magazines such as New Yorker.]

GVG:  Studies show that people buy books based on the writer and cover art.  Ads and reviews are way down on the list.  Avon is trying to establish selves as publishers of classy books.

CE:  Avon is very aggressive at pushing their books.

DH:  It is the latest new concept in SF publishing.

EL:  Ads influence sales four percent, but if ads create a greater recognition, they can boost the author to another level.

DH:  SF publishing is more profitable now than it's ever been.



According to the Equal Time Laws, More Humor from the Internet:


Top 12 Reasons Why Hanukkah is Better Than Christmas


12. You can't be nailed to a menorah

11. More elephants in the Hanukkah story

10. No roof damage from reindeer

9. Never a silent night when you're among your Jewish loved ones

8. No Dance of the Sugar-Plum Rebbe

7. Betting Hanukkah gelt on candle races

6. Kids the first in their class to know that there is no Santa Claus

5. Holiday has own official toy-the dreidel

4. Five out of five trees would rather have people use a menorah

3. No awkward explanations of virgin birth

2. Cheer optional

and the number 1 reason Why Hanukkah is Better Than Christmas...

1. No Irving Berlin songs (even though he was Jewish)



For Marylanders Only:

The following was handed to me at the meeting, I think by Lance.


In Maryland, a new law was recently enacted whereby ANYONE can pay $2.00 to the DMV and get all the information in your file based on your automobile license tag number.  The DMV is selling this info for profit to private interests and commercial organizations and the new law makes it completely legal.  In order to stop your info (address, DOB, SSN driving record etc.) from being sold you can call 1 (888) 682-3772 and privatize this information. It's all done by touch tone and you only need your driver license number, date of birth, social security number, and the desire.  Think about it; someone you accidentally cut off can now find out where you live for two dollars and a phone call.  I called the number and removed my name for my own safety and privacy.  I would recommend you do the same and also consider getting your spouse and

driving-aged children to do so.  Please forward this message to anyone in MD who may be concerned about their personal information being made available to the public.


Another interesting note I found out about.  Bell Atlantic is starting a service called "Star 54" in Jan 1998. It will allow anybody to call 1-301-555-5454 and input your home telephone number and for 75 cents the computer will give the person your name and complete address.  To get this service blocked on your phone number all you need to do is call 1-888-579-0323 and tell them you want "Star 54" blocked from your phone.  You have until Feb 7, 1998 to do this free of charge.

Note:  A Washington Post article makes clear that the new law is what gives people the right to have their names removed from the DMV info sales.  The selling has been going on for some time.



No Address

The Nov 21st meeting at the Ginters took place despite the flood. VP Elspeth Burgess chaired and opened the meeting at 9:17.  The treasury stood at $3,164.95.

Dis Present has a place to store what we rent.   The mailing list used for the flyers is not current.  There were more than 100 bad addressees.  The mailing list should be a function of the club, not someone's wife.  It should be a club function, probably under the secretary.  We need to stabilize it.  Joe said he doesn't want this to be a motion but the club president should maintain a list.  These are dead addresses, with their forwarding expired.  This happened after he had already eyeballed the list and winnowed out names.  Someone needs to come with a solution that does not harm the chairman's prerogative. Joe then read a list of people who have memberships in the 1998 Disclave.  That Disclave will feature a play written by Terry Bisson.  He thinks Terry will bring a cast.  He is getting stuff for the program book.  He read a list of people with jobs.  The con suite will be in two disparate rooms.  Two separate rooms, not desperate {yet}.  He is looking for a Beer ghod, a guest host, and someone to drive a truck.  Kathy Loguire will do the Kathy-klatches.

"Who's doing the donations to the Democratic party?" yelled a WSFAn.  Sam will schedule when they take place. Kathy will schedule who attends. Anyone who wants to volunteer for these offices can or one can be created.  I realize all of your who are competent {and some of us who aren't} are working on the WorldCon.  But Disclave is ours.  We have it year after year.  But Disclave is ours.  We have it year after year.  Bucconeer is theirs."

"No, Bucconeer is ours too" said Bob Macintosh.

Joe than said that the problem with the labels was a bloody mess that shouldn't have happened.  Bob suggested bring all recent and future Dischairs together.  Elspeth told Joe that the three or four of them should get together. 

There was no DisFuture or Dis2000.  The entertainment committee was being entertained at the K-Center. Joe asked if everyone could look around to see if they have Disclave photos laying around.  "That way there would be fewer of me."   Eric insisted that the trustees be heard but had nothing to say.

The Newtons announced change of email addressees.  The various Newtons may now be reached at any of the following:,,,  Barry Newton announced that on Wednesday, Nov 11, 1997, after a three week long coma, Ted Pauls died.  He had suffered a cerebral aneurysm followed by re-infarctions in the hospital.


 Attendance:  Elspeth Burgess, M. Walsh, Bill Squire, Lance Oszko, Richard Lynch, Mary Bentley, Steve Smith, George Shaner, Eric Jablow, Mike Taylor, Chris Callahan, Erica Ginter, Perrianne Lurie, Shirl Phelps, Sara Miskeuich, Abner Mintz, Joe Mayhew, Evan Phillips, Barry Newton, Meridel Newton, Bob Macintosh, John Madigin, Candy Myers, Kindra Gresham.



I'd normally put the book review here, but we're out of space and I have no time.  But if you are in a bookstore looking for something to read over the holidays, let me strongly recommend Katie Waitman's The Merro Tree.  It is an unusual SF first novel about an entertainer who is a grandmaster in all the arts. I'll review it next issue.


In Publisher's Weekly Best Books '97, they recommend the following in their SF/Fan/Horror section:

God's Fires by Pat Anthony (Ace)  Aliens crash-land in the 17th century.

Finity's End by C.J. Cherryh, a return to "SF's best-developed future history series."

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due.  Horror about African Americans & immortality.

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman.  Not a sequel to Forever War.

Publish and Perish by James Hynes.  "Three expertly barbed novellas of terror."

The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre sea-woman in 17th century.

The Gift by Patrick O'Leary.  "An unusually adept enchantment."

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.  Time travel to Victorian England.