The WSFA Journal October 1999

The WSFA Journal

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

Edited by Samuel Lubell

Reflections on Aussiecon Three
Postcards from Australia
Hugos Awarded
Gathered Here in Frivolity
Cumulative Worldcon votes -- a modest proposal
WSFA Goes on a Diet
Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Creationism/Evolution Debate

Reflections on Aussiecon Three

By Michael Nelson


        I just received the latest issue of Mike Glyer's fanzine, File 770, and was surprised not to see any review of this year's World Science Fiction Convention.  But, after thinking about what I would have written, I began to understand.

        When you start listing all the things that went wrong with Aussiecon Three, it sounds like a horrible failure - worse than the 1988 Worldcon, Nolacon II, in New Orleans.  But, like Nolacon II, I think most of the attendees had a good time.  Again, like Nolacon (and LoneStarCon 2) - it was saved from being a disaster by the last-minute struggles of a few overworked individuals.

        When you arrive and learn that honeymooner Peggy Rae Pavlat has been placed in charge of the volunteers (with Judy Kindell's assistance) and see her new hubby, John Sapienza, working at Registration, you begin to wonder.  (And looking for places to hide from Peggy Rae, but we won't go into that).

        I could bitch about Aussiecon Three for many paragraphs and pontificate for a few more paragraphs on why things went wrong, but I won't.  Why not?  Because I had a great time.  This may have been my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia and I had too much fun to get upset over a little disorder.  I've helped run a few Worldcons and life is too short for cheap beer and whining about imperfect Worldcons.

        Let's concentrate on the good stuff.  First, I don't recall meeting an unfriendly Australian.  With their typical "No worries, mate" response, the Australian members of the committee calmly took on all the problems with a smile.  Even when the main hotel started to run out of beer, they did not panic.  They were superb hosts.  For me, they created a warm causal you're-a-part-of-our-family Worldcon.  As an experienced con runner, I knew there were many people "backstage" going crazy trying to fix things, but they did not allow their frustrations to spoil the Worldcon for the general members.

        This was a small Worldcon, with roughly 1,500 people in attendance.  I was suffering from a major head cold (I must have left a gallon - sorry, 3.8 liters - of mucus in Australia), so the relaxed atmosphere suited me fine.  I did not feel pressured to attend every event.  I skipped the Thursday afternoon activities to visit a colleague at Note Printing Australia (the organization responsible for printing the Australian currency) and spent most mornings touring Melbourne.  There was time to talk with friends and savor the portions of Aussiecon I saw.

        After seeing just how many WSFA members were present, President Judy came up with the idea to hold a First Friday WSFA meeting - fourteen hours before the meeting would start in Virginia.  Bob MacIntosh and I volunteered our hotel room in the Centra (the hotel connected to the Melbourne Convention Centre) and picked up a few supplies.  With very little publicity, fifteen people showed up for the meeting.

        The facilities were well suited for a small Worldcon.  I don't know if the Masquerade was overcrowded on Sunday night (since I was at a party sponsored by Bucconeer and the three future Worldcons), but the Hugo Ceremony and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies were comfortably filled.  The convention center is on the Yarra River, across from the Crown Casino Complex.  There were a large variety of shops, attractions, and restaurants to provide local amusement and Melbourne's excellent public transportation made the whole city easily accessible.

        Did I get my money's worth?  You could argue that such a small Worldcon - no con suite, no film program, crippled masquerade, tiny dealers' room and art show, few "big name" program participants, etc. - should have been cheaper than the average-sized Worldcon (certainly not $200 US at the door).  I don't know yet... we'll have to see how much money Aussiecon has left after they pay their bills.

        What was the most upsetting part of the convention?  Learning that Bucconeer did not have a part in the Opening Ceremony.  I had carried a pirate costume in my luggage for nearly three weeks while touring around Australia.  But it was a nice ceremony - brief and to the point.

        The most exciting part of Aussiecon Three for me was the Hugo Ceremony.  I was representing Joe Mayhew for the Fan Artist Hugo and had lost my voice.  I had no idea what I was going to do if he won - probably mime his acceptance speech.  Later in the ceremony, Tom Veal (Chicon 2000 Chairman) went on stage to accept the Pro Artist Hugo for Bob Eggleton.  If you know Tom and Bob, try to imagine Tom suddenly channeling the spirit of Bob Eggleton during his acceptance speech.  I hope someone caught it on video.

Postcards from Australia

From Michael Nelson to WSFA

Front: Picture of Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, Cairns, Australia

Back:  Friday, August 20th.  Hello WSFA,  Time is flying by.  We have finished our three days in Sydney and are now in Palm Cove (north of Cairns) for three days.  We rode this Skyrail today and finished the day watching the sun set behind the palm trees while floating in the ocean - Michael


Front: Beautiful blue ocean beach.  Cape Tribulation, World Heritage Rainforest Australia

Back:  Thursday, August 26, 1999.  Hello WSFA.  Well, I'm a bit behind on my postcards.  We've been very busy touring.  Every night we get back to our hotel to eat dinner and go to bed.  Plus, most of the group are fighting head colds - including Dick, Bob and myself.  I'll try to catch up on the train tomorrow.   - Michael


Front:  Peninsula that is half city half green trees.  Darwin, Northern Territory Australia

Back  Monday, August 30

Hello WSFA, We were actually in Darwin over a week ago.  Since then, we have been through the Kakadu National Park, Alice Springs, and Coober Pedy.  Presently we are staying in Adelaide in South Australia.  I'm writing this on a ferry heading toward Kangeroo Island, a large wildlife preserve off the coast of South Australia.  And yes, we expect to see kangaroos as well as seals and other wildlife.  - Michael


Front: Picture of Crown Entertainment Complex, Melbourne Australia

Back: September 7, 1999.  Hello WSFA,  Well, Bob & I should be home by the time you get this card.  Minutes of the Sept 3rd WSFA meeting, Room 141 Centra Hotel:  President Judy called the meeting to order at about quarter past nine.  Fifteen people were attending.  No new business, old business was postponed, and the treasurer spent all our funds on a trip to had nothing to report -Michael


Hugos Awarded


The 1999 Hugo awards were presented on September 3 at Aussiecon Three

There were 438 valid ballots received from members of Aussiecon Three.


Novel: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (Bantam Spectra)

Novella: "Oceanic" by Greg Egan

Novelette: "Taklamakan" by Bruce Sterling

Short Story: "The Very Pulse of the Machine" by Michael Swanwick

Non-Fiction Book: The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (Simon and Schuster) by Thomas M. Disch

Dramatic Presentation: The Truman Show (Paramount)

Professional Editor: Gardner Dozois

Professional Artist: Bob Eggleton

Semi-Prozine: Locus (Charles N. Brown, ed.)

Fanzine: Ansible (Dave Langford, ed.)

Fan Writer: Dave Langford

Fan Artist: Ian Gunn

Campbell Award: Nalo Hopkinson



Gathered Here in Frivolity


     The First Friday meeting resumed at 9:10 on Friday September 3rd with VP Sam Pierce as chair.  It resumed because Australia already had their meeting 14 hours ago with Judy as the chair.  They did not communicate what business was done.

            John made a motion to declare the continuance illegal.  Elspeth seconded.  Since people in Australia couldn't vote, Lee Strong asked for an explanation.  Sam Pierce said that they had a quorum in Australia so started.  John challenged the ruling of the chair.  Sam had to give up the chair to Alexis.  Alexis said we are gathered here in frivolity and that this was perfectly frivolous.  John withdrew in favor of a peck from someone with a long braid. <Hey, I just write what happens.>  Lee Strong objected saying that the meeting in Australia was irregular.  Joe called a quorum count; only 14 were present so no business can be conducted.  John pointed out that the meeting in Australia didn't have a quorum, or we didn't know if we did.  John said that since the President had called the meeting to order [in Australia] we have to assume that either she had a quorum or no one quested it.  Someone else pointed out that the e-mail about the meeting came from someone who wasn't an officer.  Then another member walked in so we had a quorum.<Editor's note for those who were in Australia:  I'm not making this stuff up.  Honest.  Ask anyone who was there.>

            Sam Pierce asked if there was any old business.  Sam Lubell said that the old business was Joe's motion that hosts only buy soda.  Joe Clarified.  As of first of November, he proposed for discuss that the club provide only sodas nothing else.  "My idea was not austerity but simply good economics.  Whole list of austerity measures, some impractical and some calls for special collections which would make a few pay for everyone's beer."

            Sam Pierce said, "I don't think we need to go into it now."  Lee said, "Joe's motion goes into the purpose of the club.  If we just meet for beer and pretzels, we don't need money, but if we do a con we do.  So we need a plan."  Joe said, "Our treasury is declining.  If we don't do a Disclave our cash cow is dead.  We don't have the site to raise money.  So we need to economize or we will run out of money.  I have a point.  Balticon is coming up.  I was going to suggest that WSFA agree to run part of Balticon like registration.  I talked to Hal Haigh to ask that if we do registration or something like that we get a room like we did last year.  It also would give WSFA something to do.

            Elspeth said, "Two problems.  Our outgoing income.  Long term plan is to do something to raise money.  Our past plan is to have a convention.  I think that when Covert comes back from spending our government's money we will have a con again."  Lee Gilliland said, "If we don't get money it won't be the end of the world if we go back to being a social club.  People volunteer.  Elspeth said, "If people would volunteer, we would not be in this mess."

            Joe said, "Separate from Disclave, I want us to use discretion so we don't spend it all.  There are some kinds of frivolity that are not appropriate."  "Like evolution," said Alexis.  "Let's burn the non-evolutionists," suggested Joe.

            Sam Pierce asked, "What expenses... If we don't have a convention do we need insurance?" Joe said, "If convention is not held we can let that chicken go away.  What are our expenses?  What can we do that will stop the flow?  I belonged to a WSFA that didn't have pretzels.  People bought their own.  IT worked."  Alexis said, "I have a letter in the Journal.  This is something that can't be handled through Robert's Rule of orders.  This is something you just muddle through.  You can't plan for what you don't know."  Sam P said, "What Joe is doing is trying to break the pattern."            Joe, "You can't legislate, but need to change the mindset. It used to be that WSFA knew what to do.  It had a goal." 

Gail said, "We never had a real treasurer's report that said where money was spent.  If have financial problems we need a real report to see where."  Alexis said, "The problem isn't that we are spending too much, it is going out steadily.  But the problem is that not getting new money."  Someone else added that treasurer reports are something any good organization will do.  Eric asked, "When will Bob be back?"  Elspeth said, "I'll give Bob a heads up.  We have a financial situation.  People need to think outside the box.  We need to think about cutting back.  One way to do this is Joe's motion which I think is good."

John said, "These are trees but a forest is there.  If we run out of money the club will muddle on.  I think the club should use this impending financial disaster to decide what we want to do.  If we want to gather to not play poker, drink pretzels and eat beer [sic] <and sick> we should drop our C-3 status but we still could exist <Just don't tell the IRS>.  Resources need not be club provided."

Joe said we need front money for a convention, "But money is not the issue.  Money is just the cause.  Would people going to Balticon be willing to put in some hours in the name of the club?"  Alexis said, "A lot of our volunteers are in Australia."  Joe protested, "But we need to do something for its own sake." 

Lee Gilliland said, "If we need starter money would it be feasible to ask for volunteer contributions?"  Lee Strong asked, "Could someone tell me the costs of Disclave."  Joe said, "Figures from our age are not relevant.  For a normal convention that hit the target at the last convention but since you didn't have one you would have to do a mailing."  Alexis calculated, "Say 33 cents a letter for 500 people so $200 postage and $100 for printing."  Joe added, "And flyers at other conventions $500 should cover it but if come out of someone's pocket it turns into problems."

John said, "After the last convention there is a good chance that we would have to do a bond.  It would be legal to do a loan but some problems <like sharks?>  We could try to get a loan from Balticon or Baltimore Worldcon since we have supported them in the past.  I'm more interested in if we ever will have a Disclave, where, and what."  Joe said that Evan's dream is running a little convention could steer Committee in Western Pennsylvania and let it grow.  The room nights in the off-season are about $40.  Does the idea of sponsoring something in Penn appeal?  I think it would be great if do something."  Elspeth endorsed Joe's idea of doing things as a group that would get people involved again."

Sam P cut off debate saying that's more than enough old business.

The entertainment committee has been regaling you with Robert's rules of Order.  John said, "I'm sorry for not getting the press release to the Smithsonian.  They did approve the flyer.  I distributed some at NSFIC.  When we get a clean copy I'd like people to distribute.  Think of bookstores, libraries, massage parlors, so we can get the word out.  I'll get the press release out after Labor Day."  Joe asked who else is working on it?  John said, Judy, David, and Sam.  Joe said, "So you are the officer and other people are helping?"  John said, "I'm not suggesting that it is the salvation.  If people want it more of a group activities, I'll give you the phone number and walk off."

Joe asked if there was a reason why there is no cost on the flyer.  John said no, and they won't know where until they know how many people.  Sam Lubell gave the correct rates from the flyer.  John said we get the Resident's rate.  Lee G. said that her committee is tabled until October. 

Announcements:  Lee's show is installed in the library.  Party with Champaign.  Borders is doing horror convention.  Star Trek club is walking in the AIDSwalk.  First of September was Edgar Rice Burroughs' birthday.  Meeting adjourned 9:55.

Attendance:  VP Sam Pierce, Sec Samuel Lubell, Trust Lee Gilliland, Bernard Bell, Gail Dood, Eric Jablow, Elspeth Kovar, Keith Marshall, Joe Mayhew, Kathi Overton, John Pomeranz, George Shaner, Lee Strong, Michael Taylor, Brian Dunnell.

Cumulative Worldcon votes -- a modest proposal

By Keith Lynch


At Aussiecon, someone proposed cumulative votes for Worldcons.  A site could add up votes it received in previous years, until the total is enough to win.

This strikes me as a stunning[1] proposal.  However, as stated, it leaves some ambiguities.  This message is a modest proposal to clear them up.

Q: When are two bids the same?  Boston in 2001 was a very different group of people than Boston in 1998.  But was the same group of people as Orlando in 2001.  So who can take whose votes?

A: The only fair way to do this is by city, rather than by committee, since committees can change by continuous gradation into totally different committees by replacement of one person at a time.  So Boston in 2001 could have used Boston in 1998's votes, but could not   then apply them to Orlando.  However, had Orlando in 1992 failed, they could have used the votes for that site for their Orlando bid.  But could not have applied them had their proposed convention remained in Boston.

Q: When are two cities the same?  Can Anaheim use votes that were cast for Los Angeles, for instance?

A: This one, WSFS has already answered.  Two cities are the same if they're within 800 kilometers of each other.  (Or 500 miles, if within a country where miles are used instead of kilometers.  (If the great circle path between two cities is partially in a country where miles   are used instead of kilometers, and partially not, then a weighted average of the two standards is used, even if both cities themselves are within countries where miles are used, or both within countries where kilometers are used.))  Votes are discounted in proportion to distance from the city voted for.  For instance 100 votes for Rottnest Island would count as 50 votes for Perth, if Perth is 400 kilometers   from that island.  Or 75 votes if the distance is only 200 kilometers, etc.  (Since that island gets one vote every year, some city on or near the west coast of Australia should be able to use those votes to win the Worldcon in one or two thousand years.)

Q: How are distances measured to moving locations?  (Cruise ships, space stations, submarines, balloons, etc.)

A: The con is treated as if it were always at the point midway between its location at the beginning of starting ceremonies and its location at the end of closing ceremonies, regardless of its location at any other time.  However, note that this location might be inside the   earth, and vertical distance counts as part of the 800 kilometers.   Also, don't forget to compensate for time zones, the International Date Line, general relativistic effects, etc.

Q: What if a site gets more votes that are needed to win?

A: They can bank the unused votes for future bids.  For instance this year San Jose won with 666 votes to Roswell's 120.  Since they only needed 121 to win, under this proposal they could bank the unused 545 excess votes for future Worldcon bids in or near San Jose.  (Yes, I know they actually had to get a majority, not a plurality, so they needed somewhat more than 121 to actually win, but you get the idea.)

Q: Do unused votes eventually expire?

A: No.  In fact, they accumulate interest.  Initially at 4% per year.   (The WSFS business meeting can increase or decrease this by 2/3-majority vote, but only by at most one percentage point per year, and the interest rate must always be greater than zero.)

Q: What about votes for "no preference"?

A: Those too accumulate.  Votes for "no preference" are treated exactly as they are now.  If their existence makes a difference as to who wins one year, then they are considered to have been used that year.  Or rather, the minimum number that would make the difference   is regarded as having been used.  All other votes continue to accumulate.

Q: What about votes for "hold over funds"?

A: Those too accumulate until used.  This means that some years will inevitably be skipped, unless nobody ever votes for "hold over funds".  Once again, the minimum necessary votes will be regarded as having been used during the year that no Worldcon is held, and the remaining "hold over funds" votes will continue to accumulate.

Q: How can cumulative voting be reconciled with preferential ballots?

A: All places count, all the time.  One's first place vote counts as one vote.  Second place counts as 1/2 vote, third place as 1/3 vote, etc.

Q: Unused votes just accumulate forever?

A: A vote can be rescinded, at a subsequent Worldcon, by the person who originally cast it.  However, a voter cannot both rescind an old vote and cast a new one during the same turn Worldcon, but must choose one or the other.  Also, only one vote can be rescinded at   a time.  If a vote was cast one year and rescinded the next, it will have accumulated 4% interest, and hence will count as 0.04 votes rather than 0 votes after being rescinded (exact value depending on the current interest rate).

Q: What if someone rescinds a vote they never made?

A: This is perfectly allowable.  Voters are free to cast negative instead of positive votes if they prefer, which is what this amounts to.  These votes will subtract from a site's total.  The site's total itself can be negative, and if so must be counted against any otherwise-winning site within 800 kilometers (or 500 miles) of the site with the negative total, in proportion to what proportion of 800 kilometers (or 500 miles) the otherwise-winning site is from the negative-total site.  The negative votes are "used" only if the site they are being counted against wins, and otherwise continue to accumulate until used or until cancelled out by positive votes.

This proposal should help simplify Worldcon site selection voting, and make it fairer and more entertaining for all of us.


WSFA Goes on a Diet


"People seem to want to start the meeting," said Judy at the 9/17 third Friday at the Gillilands. "It's 9:11, so we'll start."  Mike Nelson said, "Be careful, the president has a gun."  Secretary Sam reported minutes from the regular and the null-A universe where the WSFA meetings apparently take place in Australia.  There was discussion about Greenwich mean time and calculations of the Virginia-Melbourne axis.  The treasurer reported $3007.28 in Yankee Greenbacks.  Not Australian.  Lee recommended moving the finds to Canada where they will go further.  James Uba reported that the Entertainment Committee went to Albacon but the female half is no longer talking to the male half because he drove through a hurricane.  Sam said that the publishing committee reports that all 1999 Journals are up in pdf form.  Elspeth asked how we managed that feat with the Oct, Nov, and Dec Journals.  Sam said only to date. 

The Smithsonian Committee says the final flyer is done but David not here to distribute it.  The press release was approved, needs to be put up.  Also need to contact local clubs to tell them they can get the member rate.  Mike asked if John had heard of people signing up.  John said they are getting middling numbers even before we did any advertising.  50-60 people.  Mike said it wasn't in the weekend section.  Sam said not in the flyer sent to former members asking them to rejoin.  John said he was hoping to get flyers.  Judy said the Arlington Library committee was not there.  Eric said Austerity committee had nothing to report.

For old business Sam summarized Joe's motion that the club pay for sodas only and that members provide anything else and also summarized the discussion from last meeting.  Sam Pierce read Alexis' letter in last month's Journal.  Judy volunteered to shoot anyone who suggested a Balto-Wash bid.  Lee Strong said we need to decide on what we want to do and then do a budget that will let us do that.

John said, "I would like to summarize and speak for Joe since he is not here.  Joe would agree with you.  He wants the club to know where it is going.  Joe, like many of us, is fond of the club.  He wants us to have the discussion of what the club and should do."  Sam Pierce said, "I have no feel for how much we spend over the last few years.  Could we summarize?"  Bob said, "$190 for 2 meetings.  We spend $15-30 for Journal per month.  Insurance was $539; it's been in that area.  We have the odd fifth Friday or picnic  $90-190 a couple of times.  Prior to this year we had $1,000 in storage fees but we've turned over this property to BSFS."

Elspeth said, "We need seed money for conventions.  Various proposals.  At rough estimate, how much seed money is needed and how much would that leave?"  John said, "It costs.  Pass the hat theory or prevail on Baltimore Worldcon for grant or loan.  Coast is 1,000 mailing about $330 and quite likely post a bond in the hundreds of dollars so $1000 would set us up.  Some of that would come from sales to members."  Elspeth said, "We should keep an eye out for getting close to that." 

Covert said, "Realistically, the small convention we could have won't bring in much money."

Sam said, "So it wouldn't give much money either?"  Bob said, "A small convention could be $500"

Elspeth said, "We would need a more elaborate treasurer's report that says where the money is spent."  John said, "I think it makes sense to make stone soup and bring snacks.  I think we need to resolve what club is.  We can't do it tonight.  A handful does stuff.  Others don't.  Not because evil but because they've had stuff done for them."

Keith said, "I noticed that Joe's motion says no food not drinks but I don't drink so I think it should be fair and even."

Elspeth, "Convince fellow WSFANs to bring in refreshments."

Sam Pierce, "I second John's amendment."

Charles Gilliland, "So the club won't pay for food?"  Bob, "It will be potluck."  John, "Hopefully coordinated."  Charles said, "I remember my mother getting grey hairs, it needs coordinators."  Sam Lubell said, "Erica at the austerity committee suggested that drinks would be easier for hosts."

John withdrew his motion. 

Mike suggested putting in $2 if don't bring anything.  Mike Walsh said we could use email to coordinate.  John said we can work it out.  Mike Walsh said, "Point is there are ways to deal with the problem."  Elspeth said, "I don't know if Mike's idea is the best way but it does address those who do work and those who don't.  Let's try this and see how it works.  Let it happen.  Someone might turn to one who has not contributed and tell them to."

John finally said, "For Ghu's sake, Let's call the question."  Joe's motion passes.

Judy said, "Starting Nov 1, the club is providing drinks only.  I hope you can think through getting a committee."

John returned to his committee since David had arrived with posters.  He urged that we steal photocopies from our businesses and post flyers. 

Elspeth made a motion that the treasurer provide a more detailed monthly report.  This passed by acclamation.  <But the secretary has not received any of these reports so could not include them in the Journal.  Bug the treasurer when you see him.>  Sam asked for copy of constitution. 

Announcements:  Mike Walsh's shipping company decided to ship books to Aussie con via ship.  They still have not yet arrived,  "You said ship them"

Insider joke about Lee Smoire visiting.  John provided the captions for the insider joke impaired.  Alex, a fanzine fan, was here.  Lots of guests <who picked the wrong meeting to attend for their first> said who they were.  Lee reported that Starship Troopers is now a cartoon.  John asked, "It wasn't before?"   David saw it.  "Picture what the movie did to Heinlein and imagine it dumbed down for the kiddies."  Lee said his organization is doing its 12th and 13th reorganizations simultaneously.  Madeleine said she will be working at Digex. 

Meeting unanimously adjourned at 10:06.

Attendance:  Pres. Judy Kindell, VP Sam Pierce, Sec. Samuel Lubell, Treas. Bob MacIntosh, Bernard Bell, Eric Jablow, Keith Lynch, Michael Nelson, John Pomeranz, Rebecca Prather, George Shaner, Lee Strong, Michael Taylor, James Uba, Michael Watkins, Alexander Slate, Matthew Appleton, Cathy King, James Basinger, Charles Gilliland, and the staff of Weight Watchers.


Lee Strong announced that Anders International will be showing Falling to Pieces at four area screens starting Sept 24th.  It will have a minimum of a two-week run at most of the theaters, with the option to run for four weeks if ticket sails look good.  From there, the prints will move down to Richmond to run for hopefully another four weeks.  At that time they may begin their tour of various U.S. cities.  Please be sure to drag your family, friends, neighbors, and enemies into the theater to see the film.  The area theaters are:

Regal Countryside 20, Sterling VA; Regal Ballston Common 12, Arlington, VA; Regal Movies 15, Fredericksburg, VA; Kentlands Stadium 8, Gaithersburg, MD. 


Marion Zimmer Bradley, 1930 - 1999

Author Marion Zimmer Bradley suffered a major heart attack last week and died at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California, on Saturday, September 25th.

Bradley began publishing professionally in 1953. Her first novel, expanded from a 1957 magazine story, was The Door through Space (1961). In 1962 came the first of Bradley's enormously popular ''Darkover'' series of novels, Sword of Aldones, a Hugo nominee in 1963. Among the many Darkover novels, collections, and anthologies that followed were Nebula nominee The Heritage of Hastur (1975) and Hugo nominee The Forbidden Tower (1977). The latest, Traitor's Sun, was published this year by DAW.

The Mists of Avalon (1983), a retelling of the Arthurian legends, was Bradley's single most popular work, achieving bestseller status. It won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 1984. The book's trade paperback edition has ranked among the top 5 trade paperbacks on Locus's monthly bestseller lists for almost 4 years. She wrote two sequels, The Forest House (1994) and The Lady of Avalon (1997).

Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, founded in 1988, and anthologies such as the Sword and Sorceress series and various collections of Darkover fiction, helped launch or nurture the careers of numerous younger authors.

From Locus online

[address censored], Arlington, VA 22204
September 12, 1999

Dear Sam,

In the September issue of The WSFA Journal your editorial touches on the reawakening of the great Creationism/Evolution debate, sparked by the 4-3 vote of Kansas Board of Education. A Mennonite member of the board provided the swing vote, on the not-unreasonable grounds that secular humanism is, or ought to be, Secular Humanism, the religion, and that the separation of Church and State means that the State ought not to favor one religion over another. You may recall Orson Scott Card and his secular humanist revivals, which were immensely popular at science fiction conventions in the mid-80s, until the Mormon elders told Bishop Card to stop, lest he spawn an abomination, a new religion incorporating secular humanism. And yet, the Mormon elders to the contrary notwithstanding, secular humanism remains a latent, a shadow religion, a quasi-theology which has been embraced by the state with more enthusiasm than is seemly.

I freely confess to a bias in favor of evolution, but the debate is stranger than it appears. Creationism is not about science--though it has a scientific veneer--but an attempt to defend the Christian Religion on a fundamental level. Back when the Old Testament was being compiled, the rabbis and scholars engaged in the task were at pains to be as persuasive as possible, partly to persuade the skeptic, partly to disarm the unbeliever. This meant that they went with the well-established and conventional wisdom of their day, such as the Earth being the center of the Universe. Another example: The Bible says, in an aside, that pelicans feed their young with their heart's blood. This poetic image was based on the observation that a pelican with young had a reddish stain on the breast, a stigmata which vanished when the young birds left the nest. More recently, we have determined that pelicans feed their young by regurgitation, a messy process, which leaves the adult's breast feathers stained with reddish bird puke. The Biblical assertion is thus a factoid, from about 1000 BC, over which has flowed the resinous treesap of dogma, trapping the factoid in amber to preserve it forever against further revision.

If Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species had been available when The Bible was being written, I expect his theory of evolution would have been incorporated in Genesis, or maybe in the Book of Darwin. It's a really neat theory, a theory that qualifies the old boy as a major prophet. The problem for the Fundamentalists, those happy souls who believe every word in The Bible is literally true, is that over time, a number of factoids-in-amber turn out to have been poetic imagery (Cain's wife, the Sun standing still for Joshua) or made obsolete, superceded if not refuted by more recent factoids. These little infelicities provide any number of specific counter-examples to their assertion of Biblical inerrancy. So, they defend the outliers of their faith against the incursions of science. It might have been Wordsworth who wrote: "Truth crushed to earth will rise again . . . But error, wounded, writhes in pain and dies among its worshippers." Whoever it was appears to have been mistaken, although in justice to the Fundamentalists, the errors which they are seeking to refute do not appear central to their doctrine, except to the extent that the assertion of Biblical inerrancy is central. These refutations create their own problems, however. Why would the God who created the world in 4,004 BC, have also fabricated evidence in the Book of Nature to suggest an age of 4.5 billion years? "God works in mysterious ways" is an evasion for sad eyed theologians who cannot imagine a useful answer.

A religion of the future, oozing dogma over the factoids of the year 2,010, might very well incorporate evolution as God's solitaire, and finesse the problem of whether humankind was created in God's image. To my way of thinking, science has greatly magnified the glory of God, far beyond what the ancients ever imagined, or could imagine. I suspect this may be a side issue, though, a bit of intellectual frivolity. When you cut to the heart of the matter what you find is the promise of life everlasting. This appears to have originated in one of the revisions of the Book of Job, addressing the problem of how a just and omnipotent God could permit injustice in the world, a thing seen by all and sundry. (Joe Mayhew could maybe cite you chapter and verse.) The theological solution was to give God an afterlife to balance the ethical books of this world with rewards and punishments in the next. People are afraid of dying, and take comfort in any religion that promises them that, no, they won't die, and the original idea of God being perfectly just was swamped by the popular reception given to the idea of life everlasting. It hardly mattered that a just God wound up giving infinite rewards and punishment for finite conduct, surely the antithesis of justice.

If we are going to impose scientific rectitude on religion, we come up against the inconvenient fact that all scientific theories are subject to disproof and revision, a source of change and therefore aggravation in the religion which has incorporated said theories into its dogma. A more serious objection is that science is pretty sure that death happens, and that life everlasting does not. Against this denial of a deeply felt human need, the scientifically enhanced glory of Grand Unified Theories embracing the creation, evolution and the rest becomes so much drivel. At the root, what a person believes is a matter of faith rather that a matter of logic, so that believing in something is like being in love. To be in love, the first step is to see something you like, and the second step is want it badly. Life everlasting beats out thermodynamics by a country mile. If secular humanism figures out a way to promise eternal life, it is well on the way to becoming Secular Humanism, the updated and contemporary religion. Still, dogma is dogma, and while a little updating now and then may be useful--heliocentrism, anyone?--perhaps the secular humanists should wait until Science freezes into its own dogmatism. Here is a bit of undergraduate doggerel that seems to address the point: "My name is Doctor Pettigrew; I am the Dean of Baliol College. Everything there is, I know it. If I don't it isn't knowledge."

Best wishes,