Gegenschein 55 May 1988


Driver's Non-License

I have a modest cost saving suggestion. Do away with drivers licenses.

This suggestion also has merit in that it applies two principles that are given much lip service, but rarely put into effect. That anything is permitted, provided it isn't forbidden. That you are innocent unless proven guilty.

I suggest this not because of my well known anarchistic sentiments, but because of a discussion I had with a fan at Kinkon. He was telling me of the enormous expense involved in providing multiple redundant systems to ensure that people could renew drivers licenses without undue delay. This reminded me that the sensible way to treat large problems is by looking for exceptions, rather than looking for medium or average situations.

Do we specifically need a drivers license? If so, why? The obvious answers are that even at present, you don't need a license to drive a car ... except when you are on a public road. Why have one then? Because of the risk to life and limb from untrained drivers, dangerous drivers, and incapacitated drivers. Drivers licenses are intended to assist in excluding these persons from public roads.

To get a drivers license, you must pass a test, intended to show that you have a proven ability to control a car. To retain a license, you must avoid being caught breaking the road rules. The only real test for incapacity seems to be the breath test, although it seems obvious that tests for other drug incapacity, and for physical disability, is sorely needed.

Since schooling is compulsory, and the school leaving age is now relatively close to the minimum age for obtaining a driver's license, and since many schools provide preliminary driver training, it seems to me that a good first step would be to make full and comprehensive driver training a mandatory school subject, with an external exam. After all, it is the most complex physical task that many people learn, and it seems only reasonable to provide decent training in it. In times of declining public transport systems, it is also a more useful skill than many taught. If you don't have a pass in the subject from both the school, and in the exam, you don't get allowed on the public road. Naturally, this is listed among your qualifications when you leave school.

Being caught breaking the road rules means the police demand some identification, and at present this is generally a driver's license. However for non driving offences, other forms of identification are deemed adequate, thus the only new problem here is spotting people who never passed a driver's exam, or who have been subsequently disqualified from driving. Instead of having a list of people who have passed a driver's test, have a list of those who have not.

The numbers involved are relatively small. We can anticipate a 10% no-drive rate among school leavers (and the majority of these will not attempt to drive without further training in any case). We can anticipate about a 5% disqualification rate. Since there are no licenses to renew, the computing capacity and staff required will be less than 10% of the present case. Since the only people offended by delays in checkups will be traffic offenders, less than 100% on line access may also be satisfactory, thus reducing the cost even more. Of course, you would bias the search techniques towards those disqualified, rather than those who have never tried to drive.

Assuming a country wide system, we would be looking at (round figures) two million adults, for whom names, addresses, and other identifying characteristics need be filed. Of course, you could use compression methods, but even without, some 256 bytes per person should be adequate. This implies a database of only a half gigabyte. You can handle that on a typical home computer these days.

The bulk data would fit conveniently onto a CD-Rom, while updates could be distributed on floppy, and stored on hard disk, with a CD-Rom update every 100,000 people added. Equipment costs would be about $5,000 per system installed (but, of course, you wouldn't bother putting one in every police station, since a good police radio system is available), and it would have a working life of about 5 years. Updating the CD-Roms would have a direct cost round $8000 for 100 copies, with the cost per copy reducing thereafter. Actually inputting the original information is an unknown cost, but obviously at least a factor of ten cheaper than the present massive systems.

In short, it would be technically feasible to drop driver's licenses. But, of course, it won't be done. After all, who in government trusts the public enough to reduce costs and inconvenience rather than increase them?


I admit to having an ulterior motive in writing about driver's licenses. It was to indicate just how low the cost of storing massive amounts of information on individuals has become. Compared to the collection costs, storage and manipulation is almost too cheap to count. Given some relatively common method of uniquely identifying each person, it is relatively simple to transfer and cross compare the already massive amount of data stored on each of us.

Luckily, at the present time, there is no such unique identifier in Australia. This is not the case in every country. In the USA, for example, the Social Security number has become a defacto universal identifier. This is despite it not being intended for such a purpose, and despite specific assurances that it would not and could not be used for such purposes. Unique identifiers are demonstrated to offer enormous convenience to both government and business. Unless you happen to be naive enough to believe that every business and every potential government has your interests at heart, such identifiers are unwelcome. This applies equally to identification cards, internal passports, taxation numbers, social security numbers, or anything else. Once they exist, you can't get rid of them, you can't control their increased use, and you can't prevent their abuse.

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The Visitor

It was nearing ten on a bleak and rainy Friday evening when Jean and I heard a faint knock on the door. I opened the door to a somewhat waterlogged David Stirrup, and led him upstairs. Do you have any milk? he asked. We hadn't been shopping. I walked over from the Radio Club meeting at the High School, just up the road, because they don't have any milk for their tea or coffee.

David's solution, after failing to get milk from us, was to phone Jim Jones at the local taxi service, and order a carton of milk delivered to the High School ... luckily, the taxi service is just as used to David as we are ... they didn't even question the order.


Kevin Dillon is an older fan (and tired?), often seen as conventions cleaning up all manner of surplus party supplies. He is best known in Sydney for housing an enormous collection of paper products (some of them sf) in various fannish garages, following a dispute with his local council. Being one of the brighter fans, Kevin also started to accumulate computers. At Kinkon, he enquired of me about his latest acquisition. An Ozi Rabble! I'm truely staggered at this coincidence. I have a few Rabble computers, but I also know the designer, and know that only about 80 were ever built ... to find another fan had found one seemed far beyond reasonable odds.

Kinkon 3


A big thank you to Andrew Murphy and the committee of Kinkon 3. It was a nicely organised, but relaxed convention over the Easter break, at the Victoria Hotel in the heart of Melbourne. With Greg Turkich as fan GoH, there were a few fans from distant W.A., including Paul Stevens. Sydney fans were however sadly lacking. I saw Kevin Dillon, Marilyn Pride, Lewis Morley, Terry Frost, Karen Vaughan and Jean Weber, with Mike McGann a late entry to the huckster room, but don't recall any others. I get the distinct impression that either money or time problems, or a further rift between these cities is decreasing visits - it seemed a very low ratio for one of the better weekends for a convention. Tasmania was represented by the much travelled Robin Johnson, while Tim (Banana) Reddan was in from Queensland. Pretty much everyone else seemed from Melbourne. Despite the sparse interstate membership, the con had 130 members by Thursday, with more at the door.


I didn't notice any real hotel problems. One room party was asked (politely) to keep it quiet (at about 2 a.m.), but did not have a repeat visit. There was some confusion about whether it would be possible to put the hucksters in a different room; since the change was only negotiated, by Greg Turkich, late on the evening prior to the con, it wasn't surprising that it eventually fell through. That was a bit of a pity, as the Jacaranda Room on the 2nd floor was distant from the main facilities in the basement, and also somewhat too small for both the 9 huckster tables and the fan lounge. There was also a problem on the evening of the masquerade, when the fan lounge was closed early, and the video room and main room closed for masquerade preparations. This left a number of fans with nothing to do for an hour or so after dinner.

Cop Shop Panel

Greg Turkich was serious for once, and instead of telling funny police stories, looked at the future of policing. In brief, they no longer prevent crime, they merely react to it afterwards. Increasingly, minor crimes will be totally ignored, and only the most serious will receive attention. You will have to see to your own safety and the security of your home. This makes for a very depressing picture, coming from someone who is in a position to know how the trends are going. I don't see it as reasonable to accept that; if society can't protect you, what in the hell is the purpose of social groups?

Violence in the Play Room

I arrived the day prior to the con, and happened upon Greg at the Victoria. Spent some of the day watching movies, and some of it at a video arcade, both rare events for me lately. Thus I was surprised by the amount of gun related violence in one film. I was horrified by some of the arcade games. One involved shooting vast numbers of people in what was obviously Vietnam, gaining points for destructiveness, and losing points for shooting peasants. I can't believe this is a healthy or sensible thing to allow in society, unless our aim is to turn out soldiers or thrill killers.


Like most conventions, there was an alternate program for film and media enthusiasts, and they appeared to find it interesting and worthwhile. Not being a media person, I skipped most of that, however the panels that had GoH John Baxter, and Phil Klass (that is, people who actually live and breath films, not just watch them) were most enjoyable. I think the lesson is clear; instead of relying on fannish good intentions, try to get some experts onto some of the panels. The results are worth watching. Luckily, it appears the forthcoming Conviction in Sydney is also taking this approach.

The film preview was Good Morning Vietnam, which provided an opportunity for the irrepressible Robin Williams to ad lib at length (just like in the first season Mork and Mindy, which never did get to Australia to my knowledge ... I saw it in the USA). If you like his gonzo style (I do) then you would have enjoyed the film, despite the numerous technical flaws, and impossible coincidences.

Tijuana Taxi

The non-banquet was at a Mexican restaurant just up the street from the con hotel. Jean and I put our names down for it, and headed there a minute or two after 6 o'clock with Marilyn Pride and Lewis Morley. Three flights up, we entered a room replete with fans, clustered round two exceptionally long tables pieced together from numerous tables for four or six people. As you might expect, although there were isolated vacant seats, nowhere was there room for four people.

We found a table for four off to one side, despite a helpful waitress pointing out empty chairs. Then some fans tried to help move the table to join it on to the end of the existing ones. Since there was a large column in the way, this effort was doomed to failure. At round about this point, I walked out.

Folks, I appreciate the concern, and the efforts to form one happy eating group ... but ... I really wish that fans would form smaller dinner groups ... or at least use separate tables.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I simply can't distinguish one conversation from another when in a really large, noisy group. I've always found myself much more relaxed at dinner in a group of four or six or eight, rather than in a group of twenty or more. Perhaps it is just old age, but I find myself annoyed instead of enjoying myself.

Deafening Silence

Mute Asian Soccer Team shares Kinkon with fans. Very few complaints about noisy parties. Groups of soccer players chat accross lobby, all in absolute silence. Sign language is certainly a wonderful idea, especially at conventions. If you have to share a hotel with another group, I'll take deaf mutes any day!

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SciFi Reviews

Rogue Powers by Roger MacBride Allen

Baen, 0-671-65584-1, Sept 1986, 401 pages, US$3.50, ISBN 0-671-65584-1

Sequel to The Torch of Honor, this space battle adventure stands up well, in the older tradition. Hard sf, this time including bio weapons, as the Guardians again invade human space. I enjoyed it, despite the multiple viewpoint characters, and widely separated scenes.

The AI War by Stephen Ames Berry

Tor, 812-53193-0, May 1987, 249 pages, US$2.95, ISBN 0-812-53193-0

Another scifi space battle adventure, this time with invaders from another universe. This is a sequel to The Battle for Terra Two, with a couple of the same characters. I must admit to not recalling a damn thing about it, except that it was fast paced and enjoyable.

The Babylon Gate by Edward A Byers

Baen, 0-671-65565-5, April 1986, 246 pages, US$2.95

A space station that amplifies psychic power, a combat trained veteran whose deceased father had designed the station. The three men who control the station have become Gods, but to save his life, the veteran has to kill all three. Nicely, if disjointedly done, despite far too many coincidences, and perhaps an overreliance on action scenes.

Rebels' Seed by F M Busby

Bantam, 0-553-26115-0, August 1986, 249 pages, US$2.95

Another Hulzein adventure, this time as Lisele crosses a barbaric planet. I must admit that I tend to get all these novels blurred into a single piece. The protagonists are always faster and smarter than everyone else, but use spacefaring technology as if it were sailing ships. No organisation; everything entirely at the individual level. In short, although fast paced adventures, they lack a sense of reality. It is a real pity, because I did enjoy the first few.

Halo by Paul Cook

Bantam, 0-553-26171-1, October 1986, 291 pages, US$3.50

An imaginative novel set 50 years of so in the future, after the Earth has been "pacified" by the Halo, whose Seeds stole men's souls. The US President works from a raft mid Sargasso, since most of the coast are Hoovervilles of lost souls. The Moon Men try to find some method of attacking the limitless almost hypnotic power of the Halo. Not my style of novel at all (more like a comic in plot), but well enough written, and it certainly moves at a good pace.

The Varkaus Conspiracy, by John Dalmas

Tor, 812-53477-8, March 1983, 285 pages, US$2.95

What do you think when a 51 year old former drunken bum returns from the Varkaus Institute, and quickly becomes the oldest (and best) rookie in the history of football? And if he can do it, how many other supermen already exist, and do you want to fight them, or become one of them. Some old concepts, but the story line is developed well, and the characters have lots of redeeming traits.

Ranks of Bronze by David Drake

Baen, 0-671-65568-X, May 1986, 314 pages, US$3.50

Unrelenting blood and gore and guts account of a Roman Legion fighting amongst the stars for their alien owners. Fighting against a variety of aliens, time without end. If you like bloody battle scenes, David Drake does it far better than most. Of course, if you don't, you tend to tire rather quickly of this sort of novel.

Slipt by Alan Dean Foster

Berkley, 0-425-07006-9, April 1984, 265 pages, US$2.95 A$5.05

A talented and prolific writer turns to a minor story in which a chemical dump produces a mutation in nearby inhabitants. But when the company that caused the problem decides on a final solution, those wild talents are the only protection. The main interest is in the rustic characters inhabiting the story.

Death Quest by L Ron Hubbard

New Era, 1-870-451-02-3, 1986, 351 pages, A$24.95

The 6th volume of Mission Earth seems even worse written than usual (I hope this isn't the start of a trend), however it contains as much action as ever. This time Torpedo Fiaccola is hired by Soltan Gris, determined to stop Jettero Heller by killing Jettero's lover, the Countess Krak. Naturally, nothing goes right for Gris, but it never has before, so why should this volume be different. The formula is the same, violence, kinky sex, and unsubtle satire. Good stuff for boring train trips.

Enigma by Michael P Kube-McDowell

Ace, 0-441-20677-8, July 1987, 355 pages, US$3.50 A$7.95

The second book of the excellent Trigon Disunity trilogy (the third will be reviewed next issue). In this, Merritt Thackery seeks the answer to the question of where did all the human colonies among the stars come from. No great technological feats in this, unlike the first novel (unrealistically so, I think ... science should have advanced faster in the two hundred or so year span of events). It is essentially a story of character development, set in an understated hard science background. Behind the question of where the colonies came from is the harder question of what has prevented them spreading further.

The Genesis Quest by Donald Moffitt

Del Rey, 345-32474-9, November 1986, 341 pages, US$3.50

Almost a decade ago, I read a hard SF novel, The Jupiter Theft, in which an alien race use Jupiter as fuel for their interstellar journey. That novel put Donald Moffitt on my list of favourite hard sf writers. This new novel (and its sequel, reviewed next issue) confirms that place. You may recall a UK TV series by astronomer Fred Hoyle, A for Andromeda in which an alien race invades earth by transmitting instructions on how to build a humanlike lifeform ... in short, invasion by proxy. The Genesis Quest has the utterly alien Var as the recipients of a broadcast message from the Milky Way system. The creature they create are human beings. Well, human beings as interpreted by a totally alien race, so even parallel cultural inventions come of different; logical, but different. And one of the characteristics of humans is curiosity as to where they came from. This chronicles the attempt of Bram, a human bioengineer, to find a way of conquering death, and travel across the millions of light years to another galaxy, and find earth. An impossible quest, when the benevolent Nar can see no reason to attempt such a task.

Human Error by Paul Preuss

Tor, 812-54987-2, October 1985, 350 pages, US$3.95

This is incorrectly blurbed as the first major novel of genetic engineering. Not true, as in recent years there has been Greg Bear's excellent Bloodmusic, and a multitude of others, treating the question of either genetically manipulated intelligent virus or molecular machines. This one is a neatly done, realistic story of people engaged in research. It reminds me a lot of the sort of thing Kate Wilhelm does so well, but seems more technically accurate, while perhaps not quite as good on characterisation. Since I've been fascinated by Eric Drexler's concepts, since I first heard of them in 1982, I enjoyed it enormously.

Circuit Breaker by Melinda M Snodgrass

Berkley, 0-425-09776-5, May 1987, 263 pages, US$2.95

This should have been done as a Western. Frontier Judge, whose smart assistant (and lover) solves all the problems. This time it is the question of whether the colonists or the Corporation own Mars. Sequel to Circuit, which I didn't see. I've rarely believed in Justice, and never in Law, so the philosophy didn't impress me, and neither did what there was of a slight story. The coincidences were given a fair run also. I'll give others in the same mode a big miss in future.

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Letters of Comment

Nick Shears

27 Chiltern Road, Wendover, Aylesbury, Bucks. HP22 6DA, United Kingdom

Your new technology really makes [Geg 53] look good. Interesting that you should change to an AT compatible - hardly a hacker's machine - though the need for work machine compatibility is what dictated my choice of an IBM (XT) clone, too. How about that computer piece you thought about writing for me? {{EL Opps ... I wonder what topic I had in mind? EL}}

Pamela Boal

4 Westfield Way, Charlton Heights, Wantage, Oxon OX12 7EW, United Kingdom

I really appreciate the clear easy to read copy one gets from a decent photocopier, though I agree with Brian Earl Brown they're expensive beasties and far more temperamental than mimeos (my hand cranked Gestetner is about 30 years old and still works like a dream when it's dusted off and loaned out to local charities) though so far I seem to be lucky. My second hand 3M "545" Copier Sensitron is at least 10 years old and while it does throw a fit every so often, being an earlier less complicated model can almost be put right on the bash it and see principle. Oddly enough, here I find it harder to get supplies for the photo copier than I do for the Gestetner. When I win the Pools I'll buy me an Amiga and then I'll get a laser colour printer. Till then my dot matrix will do fine as I don't think my Amstrad CPC6128 is powerful enough to run programs that would fully utilise a laser printer. My set up is a good enough tool for the uses I wish to put it to. I'd like to do action cartoons and various things but do believe that you can spend a fortune up grading in bits and pieces of add ons and wind up with a less effective tool. So I'll cut my coat, or win the Pools or save until I can afford the latest state of the art tool for my more ambitious coat. The latter two alternatives are equally unlikely.

{{EL Indeed photo copiers are temperamental. Jean and I got our Ricoh FT4060 paper feed repaired last month, and a hundred copies later, the toner light came on and refuses to go off, so another repair is needed. Despite this, we are still getting rid of the famous Bangsund Roneo (probably to Sydney fan Terry Frost). Andy Porter reports that LASFS bought stacks of mimeo paper, because it is no longer produced in the USA. Hope he is wrong. EL}}

Stewart M Jackson

PO Box 257, Kalamunda, W.A. 6076

I've never been sure whether to send 1 or 2 copies [of War Pigs] to Jean and yourself, so I've normally addressed mail to Jean, occasionally to both of you. Let me know how you prefer it.

{{EL We prefer one copy of fanzines, addressed to both of us. However, if you want only one name, I'll mention that Jean takes care of the mailing list. EL}}

Sue Thomason

23 Carmires Avenue, Haxby, York, YO3 8NN UK

... help in tracing a Missing Person. Just before I moved house, I had a letter from an Australian fan called Cindy, commenting on a loc of mine to Gegenschein. I wrote back to her, a pleased to hear from you, do write again letter. Cindy then then me a beautiful postcard (of Kalbarri National Park, and postmarked Perth) saying she'd locced Gegenschein at your old address, but had her letter returned, did I know your current address? Unfortunately, I've lost her initial letter somewhere in transit from Barfield Road to my new address, and her postcard only had "Cindy" on it and no address. HELP! Do you recognise the description, or know anyone who might know Cindy? I'm asking all the Australian zines I loc to print this paragraph, or a summary of it, in the hopes that I can get in touch with Cindy again.

{{EL The only Cindy I can think of offhand is Cindy Smith, but as she knows our address, I can't see her being your correspondent. Jean says Cindy Evans EL}}

I was interested to read Eric's comments on the Bicentennial; I've heard there's been a good deal of Aboriginal resentment (I should think so too!) at the idea of celebrating the start of 200 years of oppression and exploitation. Please instruct an ignorant foreigner; is "Aboriginal" rude? As a term imposed on a native people by imperialist Brits, I'd think it probably is. Is there a favourable or neutral term for "Native Australian"?

{{EL I'm not sure it is reasonable to speak of "aboriginal" for two reasons. The earlier inhabitants of Australia appear to have been separate tribes, rather than a national grouping, so any word applied to them as a whole is certain to be wrong for individual tribes. The east coast activists seem to refer to themselves as "koories" (I'm not sure of the spelling or meaning), however I have no idea whether this is accepted by most groups. The second point is that most present inhabitants of Australia were born here, not overseas. I really fail to see any good reason for considering that there is any difference between any groups of native born Australians. EL}}

John Newman

P O Box 327, St. Kilda Vic 3182

I had meant to get in touch with you last week before you went home [from Kinkon]. Fate however decreed otherwise.

It may sound a bit rich, to invoke fate. But what else can I do when we get burgled in broad daylight.

Well, it wasn't quite 'broad' daylight, but about an hour after you rang, while Jan was in the front garden and I was upstairs in the bedroom reading, a guy jumped the back fence, slipped up the stairs, and nicked $60 out of my wallet.

Lost Fans

I am looking for current addresses for Peter Edick (Los Angeles area - he sent a Xmas card with his address, but the return address was unreadable due to water damage), and Jon Singer (possible Colorado area).

Special thanks to Jean Weber for advice and help with formatting this issue.

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Typed up on whatever was available. Minicomputer terminals, Atari ST, or (mostly) IBM AT clone, and brought into Lotus Manuscript on an IBM AT clone for correction and formatting. Originals printed (at work) using an Apple Laserwriter Plus and Lotus Manuscript (which reminds me ... has anyone seen Version 2.0 of Manuscript?)

Andy Porter's Hugo winning Science Fiction Chronicle is a monthly newsmagazine, essential reading for those interested in the USA and UK SF and fantasy fields.