Gegenschein 63 April 1992

USA Trip Report 1992

Every fan who travels should do a trip report, if only to leave one in the proper position to cast snide remarks at the winners of fan funds who didn't manage to get round to doing a report. The major problem is that trip reports tend to be turgid recountings of where I went to next. Tough luck, Joseph Nicolas.

Wednesday, 22nd January 1992

The longest day of the year, thanks (ha!) to crossing the International Date Line on a stretched 747-400 during the non-stop flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. The only really worrying thing, for tecno-nerds like me, is the thought that the plane probably gulps something like ten tons of fuel an hour, and on a thirteen or fourteen hour flight across umpteen time zones, I get worried that maybe slightly more than a hundred tons doesn't leave a margin. I must admit that Qantas has decent food (at least on the outward flight), although three meals on the half day flight seemed a little excessive. And I'm still confused about buying an Air New Zealand ticket, but flying on Qantas. Not that I object; after all, Qantas has never lost a passenger, whereas Air New Zealand once flew a plane into a mountain in Antarctica (this can be considered the obligatory Australian put down of NZ - for today at least).

The trip started badly. Jean drove me to the airport (this is not why it started badly). Between the car and the airport I somehow lost my new Aussie bush hat (well, OK, it was really an old moth eaten one I'd unearthed in a cupboard ... but someone may have wanted it in a fan auction or something ... fans are often a little crazy ... make that very crazy ... especially at auctions).

The temperature in Sydney was about 35; the same as I was told it was in Detroit ... I wasn't exactly focused on the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit ... and I got a lot of milage out of that stale joke ... so I was wearing sandals in the 95 degree heat. I had my boots and socks in a bag, to carry on board the plane for when I arrived. I decided instead to wear slippers, so I put the boots in my baggage and booked my bag through. When the time came to change shoes ... no socks. I ended up wondering if I was about to lose my shirt as well! At that rate, at least the money belt would be the last to go ... although that may not have precisely covered my assets...

Despite catching a little sleep during the flight, thanks to grabbing three seats to myself (woken by a stewardess tugging my toe to indicate that breakfast would be served), I wasn't feeling up to coping with the US phone system as I rushed round Los Angeles airport looking for NorthWest for my flight on to Detroit. My two and a quarter hour transit time was down to two hours when we landed late, and I rather feared Customs and Immigration would occupy all of that. Instead they were exceedingly quick, and the only delay was awaiting luggage, and even that wasn't much delayed. I was looking for the Northwest gate easily within an hour of landing.

What I didn't spend much time on was trying to phone people. I have this terror of public pay phones, especially in foreign countries where I don't have the correct change (or any idea of the prices). Add to that a bank of phones with slots for some sort of credit cards, and I rapidly decided to give phones a miss.

Suzi Stefl and new husband Kent met me at Detroit airport. I had feared Suzi wouldn't recognise me, and had a name badge all ready on my Miskatonic University T shirt. I'd originally been even more prepared, with my new (well OK, a "recovered from a closet") Aussie bush hat ... but I managed to lose that at Sydney, moving from the car to the Customs. So I was expecting to lose Suzi ... or not recognise her. Luckily, mutual recognition was instant, and Suzi was one of the first fans to lie that I hadn't changed a bit ... except for the grey hairs. Kent and Suzi (and son Jonathon) gave me a wonderful introduction once again to the generosity and helpfulness fans show to visitors. I had a great stay at their home ... and Kent very sensibly didn't let me burn the pot roast. Jonathon was probably disappointed to learn that I had never played any of the computer games he knew. I don't play computer games ... at least, not the ones sold as games ... the ones intended for serious use are another matter ... but not serious.*

Thursday, 23th January 1992

I tried to sleep in late, attempting to make up for jet lag. Didn't really work, as my body wasn't believing the time the clock showed. In fact, it kept insisting that 3 a.m. was a good time to be awake.

There was real, genuine ice on the sidewalks. I wasn't impressed, especially as Jean had made dire predictions about the clothing I would need for the visit. It was already obvious that the thickest clothing I owned was only just adequate for outdoor use when it was windy. However, being so close to the University meant all the essential stores were within close walking distance. I bought some beer as a contribution to dinner. No reflection at all on the excellent results Kent got from his home brewing ... he even had the good taste to use Coopers as a base, a fine Australian company whose products I've enjoyed previously ... so we selected a brand of beer that came in nicely resealable bottles, for future use by Kent.

Printing up the previous issue of Gegenschein in Detroit gave me some background on US fanzine costs and production problems. Kent did the copy centre negotiations by phone, acting as if he did this sort of thing every day, and got me a $91 price for 200 copies of the 12 pages for Gegenschein 62. Postage over an ounce was 52 cents a copy, and Kent and Suzi were kind enough to mail the completed copies the next day at the post office close to their home. That printing price was a pretty good figure (just how good I didn't realise until I tried matching it elsewhere in the USA), but spending that much on my first day did leave me a little anxious about my long term budget. In fact, it left me a little anxious about my short term budget. Then I realised I didn't even have a budget planned ... in fact, hardly anything was planned.

While the printing was purportedly occurring, Kent took me shopping for other essential supplies, such as a few hundred envelopes. He also located a ham radio and electronics store, from which I was able to buy some 1N4151 diodes, something I've long wanted for a little project. Now, if I can just find another 30 or so 1N4151s without having to pay 50 cents each ...

When it was time to collect the printing, at 4 p.m., I walked the few short blocks (on the icy sidewalks) to the printers, only to find they actually hadn't gotten round to it when they said they would. I had to wait from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. while they did it on the spot. However some of the problems were in feeding the masters (which were on very thin paper), so they scanned them using the manual feed rather than the automatic. The Xerox they used was most impressive, and the actual copying, collating and stapling time was probably less than a half hour.

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Hardwired ConFusion - a metaphor for the entire trip?

Thursday 23rd January to Monday 27th January 1992

Hardwired Confusion didn't actually start on Thursday, but Suzi and Kent drove me over the icy roads, and through the pending blizzard (ok, perhaps I exaggerate slightly) so we could attend the pre-con party. Walking in to the Penthouse con suite round 11 p.m. was like stepping back a decade in an instant.

Gay Haldeman, Toastperson at the con, shrieked, rushed over and hugged me. I had actually seen Gay last year, when she and her mother had been in Sydney briefly on a tour.

Rusty Hevelin, Fan GoH, looked exactly the same as when I had last seen him in 1982, and he was only a second or two slower. We had driven his van across from Los Angeles to Dayton, and thence to a World Fantasy Con on the west coast much more than a decade before, and of course I'd seen him again in 1982.

Walter Jon Williams, pro Guest of Honor, looked every inch the popular author, resplendent in sports coat, and looking more middle class that I recalled. Walter has sent letters in response to Gegenschein over the past decade, and I've favourably reviewed every book of his I've been able to get my hands on. He is not one to miss any obvious cue.

Walter rushed over and hugged me. After a Bubonicon in Albuquerque in 1982, Peter and I stayed at a farm outside the city, toking, smoking, dropping acid, and sniffing amyl nitrate, sitting round the conversation pit, playing with the pet snakes ... and after a night of this, we were both in fine form to drive to Chicago for the Worldcon with Walter. What made this behaviour even sillier was that both Peter and I had valid plane tickets to Chicago. We were in such great shape on this trip that one of the highlights was stopping and gazing in rapt wonder down at the bottom of the largest hand dug well in the USA. So Walter and I did have some shared history (even if he is probably the only one who remembers it all).

As a result of all this attention, I think the ConFusion con committee got an entirely false and exceedingly upmarket perception of my position in fandom ... not that I objected, mind you.

Now for the important things, the parties ...

OK, maybe parties aren't the only item in an 800 person convention. If I can locate the neat program book, I can report on the panels, which commenced round 4 p.m on the Friday. I saw the taping of Gay's interview with Rusty, or vice versa, and author Kathe Koja's interview of Walter Jon Williams, although Kathe's interview of her husband, Artist Guest of Honor Rick Lieder, didn't occur. Most wonderful line of the program book was in Kathe's bio of Rick, Human God or Experiment Gone Wrong in which we are told "members of the audience are often ridiculed, then killed and eaten by the more erudite survivors. Sophisticated fun for all ages, you'll agree". Kathe had some very funny lines to contribute through every conversation. I rather wish I'd seen some of her novels, but they are not hard sf, so I've not seen them (I must do something about that).

ConFusion had a number of smaller conference rooms set aside, including two gaming rooms, a filk singing room, two seminar and reading rooms, a computer room for those into computer games, a movie room, and an Amiga and repro room. Possibly as a consequence, none of the panels or parties seemed overly crowded, despite the 800 attendance.

When we departed for dinner at 6 p.m., Bill Bowers was sitting in the hotel lobby, looking nervous as he prepared his Return of the Post-IguanaCon Nonpractice Speech. At least he was too busy to start insulting me ... that came later ... so did the ellipses.

My meal that evening was indeed memorable, as we drove off in Rusty's van for a dinner rendezvous consisting of Toastperson Gay Haldeman, Fan GoH Rusty Hevelin, Joe Haldeman, Artist GoH Rick Lieder, Kathe Koja and GoH Walter Jon Williams. Unlike a certain Melbourne con, the GOHs showed fine timing to get the entire trip and dinner done in under two hours, so as to commence the starting ceremonies on time.

Larry Tucker had obviously put a lot of work into Amiga based animation, as he had what appeared to be ten minutes or so of animation and live action out-takes from previous conventions, as an opening for this convention. Despite not being a video person, I was really impressed by how much could be done with current home computer animation ... by the right person.

I must mention the midnight show, at which Joe Haldeman introduced Robot Jox, a film for which he wrote the script. He also told a wonderful range of stories about which parts he wasn't responsible for ... like the title, the minor roles that didn't exactly work, the book based on the (wrong) script (written as a film tie in by another author ... who didn't know he had the wrong script). Now that is the sort of thing we should show in Australia at some convention, with Joe introducing it all ... and we are working on it.

Over the next few days I saw a vast number of (formerly) familiar faces, and fanzine fans I've long corresponded with.

Mike Glicksohn, in a familiar looking, but exceedingly battered Aussie hat, which left me really regretting I'd lost the one I had intended to bring. Mike maintains that he was not the fan who held a poker game in an elevator. Says he believes he is too socially responsible ... now, personally. I'd have done it, had I thought of it ... but hardly anyone thinks I'm socially responsible.

Stephen and Denice Parsley Leigh, my hosts in Cincinnati a decade ago, and about the worst correspondents I know. I have to forgive them, as Stephen has managed to produce a decade worth of sf novels in the period. Also, in a moment of weakness, Denice said two years to another fanzine from her. And I'm going to write and remind her of this! Ah, but I do miss the Cosmos and Chaos juggling routines of Stephen and Ro Nagey. Watching those two juggle flaming torches in the twilight outside Stephen's home was one of the most illuminating memories of previous trips.

Neil Rest, looking as wild haired and totally unchanged as ever. I told Neil that one day I'd manage to take up one of his Chicago party invitations.

Maia Cowan and Lan Laskowski, with Lan's Lantern one of the largest and most detailed fanzines I receive about sf authors. Time after time I've found myself intimidated about loccing it, due to the sheer bulk and total content of each issue.

Others included Brian Earl Brown and later Denise Brown, Daphne Joan Woods, and Ben Schilling, whose apa zines we once reprinted when we were mutually members of ANZAPA. I was really surprised to see fans I thought were long disappeared, including Cy Chauvin and Tony Cvetko. I shouldn't mention Larry Tucker, of Uncle Albert's Video fame, because he put me on some of the panels, as the token overseas fan, but since that gave me a free membership, I'll forgive him ... I guess. Now, if I only had his address so I could buy copies of some of his videos.

Now for the important things - the parties! The Niagara Falls worldcon bid on the 14th floor was always a neat gathering spot. Having various regional con publicity parties on the 17th floor was really handy, because I was on that floor ... someone recognised me as a party animal! The MNet BBS system party on the same floor also proved a great spot for finding computer and techie people to talk to ... although after about 3 a.m. the conversation didn't make much sense even to us computer nerds. Despite (or maybe because of) jet lag, I managed to party until round 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night. I'd have tried for ANF except I wasn't even sure when daylight started up here. I was also encouraged to find that DF2 still existed, albeit more subdued than in the past.

Joel Zakem invited me to his and Bruce Schneier's birthday party. Now a lawyer (but we will forgive him that) in Louisville, Joel was the fan who, a decade before, had obtained the Cuervo 1800 tequila I had taken back to Australia with me. If I recall right, back then he was in radio ... but lawyers reputedly make more money, which is a good reason for changing.

I knew Bruce Schneier's name, but didn't place him until in the party. He had visited with Jean and I a few years ago, and we had visited an animal sanctuary to check out koalas and other strange Australian animals. Bruce gave me copies of his trip reports, which seemed to touch all continents. He actually had four volumes already, without having caught up on his Australian trip. Jean should have received copies in the mail, but I didn't recall having seen then prior to leaving Australia.

As usual, upon return to a US con, I found my Science Fiction Oral History Association membership was due, and was monstered by Jean Bernard for a renewal. This is a good cause, and may eventually become the equivalent of Harry Warner Jr. in setting down sf and fan history. Buy a membership and help support it with tapes of convention speeches and other sf events.

Leah Zeldes Smith and Dick Smith were there. On the last day of the con, we sat in the bar, together with Bill Bowers, and talked with fans from the Niagara Falls in 1998 bid. They asked me to be Australian agent, and perhaps somewhat foolishly, I agreed. Well, I like the concept of an affordable worldcon. I'll mention the committee: W. Paul Ganley, Linda Michaels, Mike Glicksohn, Bill Bowers, Steve Scherer, Tim Pruitt, Karen Klinck, Linda Ruth Pfonner, Susan Baumgartner, Jeanne M. Sloan, Peter Sloan, Amy Lass, Herb Kauderer, Marybeth Gauthier, with Joe Maraglino as chairman. Their address for pre-supporting (US$5) or associate (US$20) membership is N.F.S.F.A. PO Box 500, Bridge Station, Niagara Falls, NY 14305 USA. The club also puts of a neat fanzine called "Astromancer Quarterly".

Leah and Dick invited me to go out to dinner with them, but my stomach had decided it was on strike, or still on Australian time. Gay Haldeman invited me to join them for dinner slightly later, but my stomach still thought food was a terrible idea. That was a real pity, as either group would have been great fun.

In the hall parties, I saw Candice Massey, who shared an apa with Jean once (still?), and wanted to be remembered to Jean.

Roger and Pat Sims, who had attended the first Aussiecon in 1975, were there. Roger had been fan GoH at one of the recent Worldcons I had missed (maybe 1990?) They had moved to Cincinnati, host many of the CFG meetings, and later kindly hosted me in splendid style when I visited Cincinnati. Roger continues to threaten to publish the second issue of his fanzine - the first was round 1950. In fact, I should be writing up an article for his second issue right now! (Yes Roger, I will ... eventually ... get it done.)

Some of my sins caught up with me when I wandered into the meeting rooms and was promptly conscripted onto the What is a Fan panel. I managed to avoid blurting out "a confused, drunken, penniless idiot". Immediately after I was the token fan on the SF Around the World with Elizabeth Hull, Frederik Pohl and Joe Haldeman, but luckily I only needed to wing through a few moments on Australia fandom, as the others were very busy describing World SF, and European fandom.

Much the same people, plus Walter Jon Williams and Michael Kube-McDowell did the Tom Swift and The Electric Pen panel on writers and their writing tools. Not surprisingly, it didn't seem to matter much what you wrote on, as long as you were consistent about doing some writing every day.

Our Lady's Madrigal Singers with Suzi Nassen Stefl and Sharon Brevoort entertained us during the course of the banquet. It was probably a mistake to pay $25 for what turned out to be an exceedingly poor buffet, but I did know what I was doing. The ConCom hadn't sold many tickets (29 out of the 50 available ... and some of those were GoH and other free lunch) and I felt I might as well help out. Then there was that horrible white stuff I'd have to brave had I wandered round outside looking for food ... the cold white stuff ... that tended to make me more favourably disposed towards the banquet. Plus I very much wanted to see Suzi sing, since she had told me about their Madrigal group.

There were so few people at the banquet that as I wandered round, Elizabeth Hull waved to me to join their table, with Frederik Pohl, Joe and Gay Haldeman, Rusty Hevelin, and Walter Jon Williams. As a result, the con banquet was great fun ... pity about the food.

I was really impressed by Walter's GoH speech. Magic and how to keep your readers from noticing you were just waving you hands when you "invented" your sf gadget or gimmick. Walter illustrated his points with a great demonstration of magic tricks. Several times the audience thought they had finally caught him out, only to find they had been misdirected once again. It was fun. In fact, Walter would make a great GoH for some Australian convention looking for an overseas GoH with a solid record of books sold and a good line at panels and parties.

Con chair Roberta Kennedy and John Woudsta and their staff put on a fine con, IMHO, and I had a real fun time. I also ate most of my "meals" in the con suite, buying committee hot dogs for most breakfasts and lunches. Anything to avoid going out in the snow ... but at cons I usually only eat one full meal a day, so that wasn't much of a sacrifice.

I wasn't going to buy any books so early in the trip, because I would then have to carry them round the country. However Rusty's auction intervened and got a few small but interesting items. The auction was to help raise funds for George Alex Effinger's medical bills ... as it is a pre-existing condition, he can't get medical insurance. In the USA, medical insurance is a totally ridiculous cost, and not having it can mean ruin. There are a bunch of letters on this topic in Astromancer Quarterly, the Niagara Falls in 1998 worldcon bid club newsletter, and none were encouraging. I hope Australia never falls into that particular trap.

Later I saw Big Hearted Howard DeVore in the Huckster's Room, and that was another bunch of books for me to crush into my bag ... hell, folks, the first week isn't over, and already the luggage is stretched!

There was a dead dog party Sunday evening, in the con suite, but it was small and subdued, and I wandered off relatively early to get ready for the morning.*

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Monday 27th January 1992

The book buying trend actually continued after the con, as Rusty Hevelin drove me to Cincinnati, stopping at a Half Price book shop, so I ended up with a few computer books, as well as some sf. Well, it still wasn't really too many to fit in my bag ... provided the bag stretched a lot.

Rusty had also arranged for us to drop in on Lynn Hickman, fellow FLAP member, whom I'd not expected to see, as I hadn't really familiarised myself with the physical locations of various fans with whom I shared an apa.

Lynn had reported in FLAP on his idea for making a fan spot for himself in his garage, and so I got to see how far he had gone so far. That sort of visit makes mailing comments much more concrete (although that is not what his new slan shack is built of). I did get to see the impressive new furnace his garage now sported. I had a lovely time furnace viewing in the USA, as furnaces are something no-one here owns.

Rusty went out of his way to get me to Pat and Roger Sims pleasant home in Cincinnati, where Bill Bowers was waiting. Bill had carried on about Pat's lasagna all weekend, so I was delighted to try it. It lived up to its reputation. The evening concluded with a screening of the Outworlds 50 video, and other Larry Tucker out-takes.

Tuesday 28th January 1992

Rusty had to get back home early in the morning, and I never did manage to make the time to see his new house, and pulp collection. Maybe next trip. Roger Sims showed that a lapse of a few decades since his last (and also first) fanzine hadn't diminished his fanzine bundling skills, as he helped me mail the last of the issues of Gegenschein 62 to Canada, and the copies for FAPA.

Roger and Pat took me to see a strange machine at a mall. It was undoubtedly fannish in intent, as it was wonderfully elaborate, endlessly fascinating, and had no apparent useful purpose. It simply ran a bunch of billard balls through various routes, on a not exactly random ... but decidedly complex ... pattern. If I'm lucky, maybe one of the photos Roger and Pat took will appear here.

While I'm not particularly attracted to shopping malls back home I find myself endlessly fascinated by US malls, since they frequently contain things totally new to me. For example, this one contained some of the new "virtual reality" games machines, that I'd heard of, but never before actually seen. I didn't try them, since I don't play computer games ... at least, not the ones billed as games.

Bill took me to see Jackie Causgrove and Dave Locke, and Roger came along also. Initially the meeting was somewhat marred by their cat acting more than slightly aggressively, and even biting Dave. This didn't spoil the dinner at Fridays (even though it was Tuesday), and we stayed talking until late. Of course, by then I didn't even know what time zone I was in, so it may not have been real late.*

Wednesday 29th January 1992

I had problems when I asked Northwest for a flight to Gainesville; they don't fly there, and I couldn't even get a non-stop to Orlando. Later calls were much easier, as they wait listed me on potential flights, and booked me on ones that would do at a pinch.

Don Carter dropped by early, driving a very sporty looking Toyota M2, a car that appears all engine and wheels, and not much passenger room. Indeed, I had never even heard of such a vehicle, which probably merely indicates how out of touch I am with sports cars. The day after I returned to Australia I found a review of the new model in a newspaper. Must have been sensitised to potentially fannish cars.

It was real fun zooming about Cincinnati and running over hills like a roller coaster. Don is the resident computer wizz, so we wasted a fair bit of time in a computer shop. I was fascinated by the size, and the extent of the stock. It was more the size I associate with a small town supermarket (later, in Los Angeles, people told me the size of their computer stores ... and it sounds like they would make a supermarket here look sick). Unlike Australian computer shops, it actually had an extensive range of brand name software. Not being a PC person, I didn't actually need any (and hardly ever use brand name stuff in any case), but it was impressive. I was pleased to see a $139 Geoworks bundle with Borland's Quatro, as that (together with DrDos) is what I'd recommend to people who own a low end PC.

We visited Don's home, saw Tanya, played with the dogs, and (rather late by then) tried to move some files from my Zenith portable to Don's rather larger PC. Naturally we had file transfer problems, since we didn't have any transfer program in common. We finally both fired up Procom, and used that to transfer FWL, and then used that to move the rest of the stuff. This occupied rather more time than planned, and we returned to the Sims' round five, an hour after we expected.

By then, Dave Rowe and Carolyn Doyle had arrived from Indianapolis, while Dick Spellman was already there. With Don Carter, Pat and Roger Sims, and myself, that made rather a large number sampling the lasagna ... but there was enough. I'm tempted to accuse Pat of having invented an ever expanding meal, like the purse that always contains a penny.

Afterwards we all headed to Steve and Denise Parsley Leigh's home for a party, which ended up totalling round 16 or 17 people. Bill Cavin was there, probably wondering if he couldn't declare it a CFG meeting, and collect membership fees. Bill drove me from Las Vegas to Phoenix round 1978, when we had both been at Las Vegas gambling (with the Haldemans, Mike Glicksohn, Sid Altus and others, prior to Iguanacon). Cokie was along, and recalled meeting me while helping registration at Octacon, probably in 1982. Tanya Carter arrived just about the same time we did.

Al Curry and Lyn Loughlin were there, and one of my major regrets about this trip has to be that I didn't somehow arrange to be in town at the right time to hear Al sing again at the pub. Now that would have really brought back memories of past visits.

It was during this party that Denise agreed that perhaps she would do another fanzine in two years time ... and I'm not going to let her forget. Greymalkin was one of my favourite 'zines ... and there aren't so many round that one should quietly disappear.

Thursday 30th January 1992

I was able to phone Buck Coulson, who I'd not really expected to be able to see, however Carolyn Doyle thought it could be arranged later. Had it not been for so many fans helping, I'd have missed seeing large numbers of other people I know. I just wish a few more US fans would visit Australia so I could try to repay their many kindnesses shown me while travelling ... on the other hand, it sometimes seems I'm always away somewhere else.

Roger Sims must be one of the great shopping fans; he took me to a great variety of cheap, local discount places, and found bargains in each of them. I was able to get a very nice cotton shirt (perhaps a tad too large) in one, although I didn't see any quite as bright as I was looking for; I wanted one bright enough to shock the notable unshockable School of Mathematical Sciences where I normally work ... well ... am employed.

During the course of this brief shopping expedition, Roger found me an exceedingly nice leather carry bag, just the thing for a weekend trip, and it was just large enough to also take my notebook computer and its power supply, plus a few books and notes in its many compartments. Since I'd left home with my usual work bag, which was not at all suited to what I now wanted to carry, I was really pleased to get such a bargain. In fact, I rapidly began to think of future trips in terms of arriving carrying nothing, and letting Roger take me on shopping expeditions.

Roger and Pat drove me to lunch at the Montgomery Inn Rib King, a wonderful establishment I've been lucky enough to dine in during virtually every visit I've made to Cincinnati. Meeting us there were Don Carter, Mike and Carol Resnick, and Denise Parsley Leigh arrived only a little later. Mindful of previous visits, I didn't even attempt a full slab of ribs (although I was impressed with Mike Resnick disposing of one), but ended up well and truly full regardless. Just as well I can't get decent pork ribs in Australia, or I'd end up looking like a butter ball.

Pat and Roger took me to visit the Resnick's home in town afterwards. I'd seen where they lived a decade ago, but this was an absolutely beautiful statement about spacious, gracious living ... while still having the usual quantity of books I associate with sf fans and authors ... the bookcases were a lot neater, and better organised, but the sheer quantity was still there. A very large bookcase was given over to Mike's own books, and he mentioned an incredible quantity (mostly with him as editor, admittedly) to come out over the year. Every time I see a house like that, I always want to rush home and try to get my own one as tidy and as organised ... I never do ... but it does you good to have examplars somewhere.

After dropping Pat off at work for a few hours, Roger took me to see Bill Bowers, where books, shelves, and paper were neat, but by no means totally organised. It looked sort of like my rooms (on an organised day). Bill no longer had a computer, victim of his recent problems, but was still turning out incredible Outworlds on a borrowed typewriter. Roger had to go pick Pat up after work, and I stayed talking to Bill.

We eventually went to Dave and Jackie's (where the cat was now acting unhappy, but no longer homicidal), and thence to Ruby Tuesday (this being a Thursday). Ruby Tuesday is best perhaps described as a Yuppie hamburger joint (although that isn't really a fair description), and seemed to figure often in this trip. Bill dropped me off at Sims before midnight.

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Rubicon - Lexington Kentucky

Friday 31st January 1992

Dick Spellman, well known over recent years as a huckster, drove Pat and I to Rubicon, a small but delightful relaxacon, held at a Marriott resort in Lexington, Kentucky, and organised by Scott and Jane Dennis, of Jane's Fighting Smofs, and many huckster rooms. The only excitement of the trip was missed a turn on the interstate, but we were able to keep amused with conversation about fandom, and catching up with old news.

We were one of the early arrivals, and so I helped Scott and Jane move wagon loads of food and drink from their van up to the con suite. The food supplies appeared never ending, and of wide variety. I was impressed. I also gained about five pound during the convention.

A slow drift of fans into the con suite occurred all afternoon, with much munching of party supplies. I was pleased to see a heavy emphasis on tasty fresh food, rather than a total concentration on packaged junk food. Jean mentioned much the same from her past visit to the USA, so perhaps it is a trend.

The major convention at the hotel was a group of cattlemen, who had various ranch appliances, veterinarian supplies and similar stuff being demonstrated in the convention area round one of the entrances. "Free sperm" was perhaps the most eye-catching sign in this area, at least until you realised it was a lot of bull.

In the evening, Joel Zakem arrived, and gave me a bottle of Cuervo 1800 tequila ... so I drank it ... with a little help from Joel. As I mentioned previously, Joel was living in Cincinnati when I was travelling round a decade before, and was the person who found the Cuervo 1800 I took back to Australia with me from that trip. My friends played "hide the bottle" round 3 a.m. so I never did get to see if I could still get through a bottle in one evening ... probably just as well.

The video program, in one of the two con suites, was Rocky Horror at midnight (Bowers arrived round then, having travelled with Roger Sims who was working back late ... but I was talking about the name of the film). By then I was having a good enough time to really enjoy the film. The same room was also the art show (if anyone brought a drawing), and the huckster's room (with Larry Smith setting up a few trays of books in the bar area). I don't think it was also a smoking con suite, but I can't really remember that part of the arrangements. At this time, as when I was in Cincinnati, I wasn't having any real problems with cigarette smoke. I certainly recall that when Bill wanted a smoke, he stood out on the balcony, overlooking the atrium.

Saturday 1st February 1992

The showers gave cold water, probably due to the peculiar taps (faucets) favoured by the hotel. Use of cold water could be considered a penance, although I personally think these variant tap designers should be shoot. I did eventually figure out that the problem was manipulation of the taps, rather than actually running out of hot water as I thought at first.

I was impressed to find that almost all the Marriott resorts had exercise facilities near the indoor pools or spa, for guests ... not that I saw any fans using them.

The hotel food being expensive, I went across the windswept parking lot to Denny's for brunch, with Leah and Dick Smith (of "hide the bottle" fame), and Bill Bowers. I'm not even entirely sure why I bothered eating out, as Rubicon definitely seemed to be a food based convention, with a vast variety of interesting food available in the con suite at all hours.

Larry Smith, the huckster who took over Dick Spellman's bookseller business, was on hand (despite it being a relaxacon). I bought a bunch more books, and found out how to arrange to have orders mailed to me in Australia. Dick Smith was looking for ballast for a strange mail permit he and Leah were using for fannish mail, and had volunteered to take my books to Chicago when they went home, for mailing later. I essentially had a large box of books, mostly full, by then.

The atrium was a focal point of attention, as the rooms all opened onto large balconies, which around the con suite overlooked the atrium. As a result, we could readily hear the hotel band playing an awful lot of country and western music, and many (mostly bad) voices singing (or trying to) right along with it. We speculated on whether we could manage to keep a straight face long enough to complain that their singing was disturbing our party.

One somewhat nastier consequence of vast open atriums is that a long fall is possible. Looking over the rail from the second floor, we could see into the offices below, where part of the thin ceiling material had been removed. Some of the suites had a balcony projecting into the atrium area. Directly across from our balcony, and about six feet from it, was another balcony. On the side of that balcony were two large vertical scrape marks. Yes indeed, someone had gotten drunk, lost their key, and decided to jump across the space into their balcony ... and didn't make it.

It wasn't a fan.*

Sunday 2nd February 1992

My birthday. I never did get round to a free Denny's meal, as suggested by some fans, and must admit that I found the idea a strange one. I went with Leah and Dick and Bill to the hotel brunch in the early afternoon. I must remember not to eat at "all you can eat" buffets at US hotels - I can't even begin to do them justice.

There were many slow farewells at the end of the convention, despite the attendees numbering perhaps fifty. It was a great convention for me, and proved once again that small cons are fine, if the right people attend. Even if you don't get all the people you would like. For instance, it would have been great to have seen fellow FLAPean Jodie Offutt, and that was probably the con closest to her.

Dick and Leah drove me to Dave Rowe's place, where Dave darted about producing all manner of goodies to eat. They carried off my accumulated books, about 30 in all, to mail from Chicago later. Carolyn Doyle returned from work round 2 a.m. Strange timing on both their jobs, which they later explained gave them about one weekend in four off at the same time.

Monday 3rd February 1992

Both Dave and Carolyn worked Monday leaving slightly after midday, so I caught up with domestic chores, washed clothes, caught up on some letters and jotted notes for this. Indeed, it was not until this break that I got much reading done, or updated my description of previous conventions beyond rather cryptic notes.

Tuesday 4th February 1992

Carolyn had the day off, so we drove through Indianapolis where we collected cards to send various people, and then continued north. In scenes reminiscent of "Superman - The Movie", the amount of snow cover increased, and the temperature decreased. I recalled once again Jean's warnings about the climate. One stop at a MacDonalds, for Carolyn to collect a snack, and then we continued navigating via a not totally specific map. Off the highway, we made one bad choice of direction, and then corrected ourselves.

Buck and Juanita Coulson had their name on the letterbox, and once we had located the right area, their directions were indeed clear enough. The farmhouse contained, if anything, even more books than I remembered from a visit to their previous home perhaps a decade and a half before. Bookcases in every room, with the specifically library areas very much given over to paper. It was great!

Although Buck still writes locs to me, and has a column in fellow Faulconbridge fan Ron Clark's fanzine "The Mentor", I find myself missing the formerly regular appearance of "Yandro", their long lived fanzine. I also missed seeing Juanita's column in that, although I know they are both getting to filk oriented conventions on a regular basis. The trouble is, I don't. Indeed, I don't even try to keep up with the various filk tapes that are now so widely available. I was surprised to see just how professional that area had become over the course of the decade since I'd last seen it.

After a fine afternoon of conversation, we left ahead of snow flurries, and headed back to Indianapolis.

As a technophile, I always like gadget stores ... but during the time I'd been away from the USA, it seemed some new ones had appeared, unlike the traditional electronics stores, nor like Edmund Scientific. Carolyn took me to a mall in which were both Sharper Image, and Brookstones. Alas, although previous descriptions had made it appear these would be a technophile's paradise, by the time I saw them, they had turned into a techno yuppie's executive toyhouse. Wonderful to visit ... once ... but nothing there I'd like to buy (with the possible exception of the gel bicycle seat).

Outside the mall our choice of eating place was full or closed, so we took the easy way out and ended up in Fridays (it being Tuesday). The noise level was a little high, but not too high for conversation about old times and the fannish past.

When we finally returned home, the video treat was Allegro Non Troppo, a film I'd enjoyed only once before. This is one of several films I'd like to have on video (another being Mike Jitlov's Wizard ...), to complement the copy of Fantasia that Jean bought me for Xmas.

Wednesday 5th February 1992

Carolyn thought Dave would enjoy an early breakfast out. Well, actually it was the breakfast rather than the early that was the attraction, so we stopped at a Cracker Barrel on the way to the Indianapolis airport. Some fans had mentioned Cracker Barrel was not politically correct, as they had apparently sacked some gay or lesbian appearing (how would they know?) staff in the past, and some fans were boycotting them. I gathered the restaurant had recanted by then.

We got to the airport early, and had a chance to wander. Carolyn found a MacDonalds and we had a spirited discussion about whether this was an advantage or not. Carolyn held to the view that cheap bad food was better than expensive bad food (the usual airport choice), and I must admit that it is probably only my naive idealism that makes me want to hold out for cheap good food.

Flight 440 was OK, with a very brief stop in Detroit, and a light snack of pita bread, roast beef and salad for the meal. Someone snitched the February Omni the stewardess offered me at Indianapolis, but I'd already figured they had simply moved even further upmarket than I remembered from a brief encounter with that magazine several years ago.

I got lost at Orlando airport ... please give us a sign! Actually I got lost several times, discovered you couldn't get from one side of the airport to the other on some levels, and wasted from round 4.40 p.m. until 6p.m. find out just where the Days Inn courtesy car left from ... but I did avoid having to pay for a taxi.

The room was motel style, with faults ... a minor plumbing leak, but it was cheap. I didn't much care, as I wanted only to read more books, catch up on my trip report, and sleep. Interestingly, the room included a small bar fridge, and a room safe (not incredibly solid) for valuables.

And here we will leave this section of the trip report, with me getting a night of sleep, after catching up on some notes, and discovering that despite many TV channels, there still wasn't actually anything on! Luckily I had a selection of alcoholic beverages to ease the pain.*

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Trip Costs

Fans planning to travel may well wonder just how much did my trip cost me? The real answer is that I don't know exactly as yet, but here is what seems to be the breakdown, in US dollars.

Frankly, if I'd expected initially ... by which I mean, six months before I left home ... rather than a week before I left ... that the costs would be that high, I may not have gone. After all, I'd already put off travel for a decade ... and one big incentive for travel, in the past, was job frustration. Come to think of it, ever since we got PCs in profusion here, I've had this wonderful incentive to travel ..

On the other hand, I don't believe I wasted a totally excessive amount in any sense, since it covered six weeks of extensive travel, and a total of five conventions. After all, staying in convention hotels for say four days, at five conventions, is probably going to run round $2000, even if you don't get too ambitious about your meals ... or your party supplies.

Indeed, the first thing to note here is that I was exceedingly silly in not trying to make more and better arrangements to share hotel costs. From this distance, that basically means making plans for cons well in advance, and checking by mail with other fans about sharing rooms at conventions. I simply wasn't sufficiently organised to arrange much along these lines.

Books must have cost a fair amount. After all, I mailed 18 pounds of them back from Florida, and 36 pounds back from Chicago, and carried another 30 pounds back home in a very overstuffed bag. My postage alone ran round $70 for various things I mailed. I'd have to guess at least $300 in books, but if anyone wanted to argue it was twice that, I wouldn't be able to argue. And, having just seen (some) of the outstanding Visa bills, I realise that I slightly under-estimated how much I'd spent ... and all of the excess was for books!

Not everyone prints a fanzine while on a trip. The first 200 cost $100, the extra 25 later cost $20. I bought 100 at 52 [cent] stamps, and sent out two packages to apas, so that probably ran up $200 in potentially avoidable costs. At least, avoidable while doing a trip ... I'd have spent the same doing them from here in any case, so it is more a matter of timing.

My internal air fare costs could have been dropped by round $200, especially on a shorter trip, or one with a West Coast con to start. I changed to NorthWest at the last minute (due to changed trip plans), and was thus able to use reserved flights, and take more than 30 days. But I could have had a standby ticket on Delta instead for US$449 for 30 days. For a shorter trip, this may be a better option, despite running on standby only.

Finally, it is well to remember that over a six week period, I'd have probably spent over $1000 just staying at home. After all, I'd still have to eat, and would probably have managed to waste money on books and magazines here in any case.

Back in 1976, on my first long trip overseas, from August 13 until the end of December, my ancient notes reveal I had a total US trip cost of round US$4050 (which due to currency exchange rates was about the same in Australian dollars). I carried US$2750 in travellers checks on that trip, but that was before you could get Visa or Mastercard in Australia, and at a time when I could (semi) confidently budget $15 a day for expenses. After all, gas in Australia in those days was 70* a gallon, not 70* a litre! Mind you, I also travelled by bus then, some 10193 miles (and an extra 1109 by air, plus 3151 by car).


I've just received an anonymous flyer, urging a "no" vote at the Syncon business meeting on allowing Constantinople to hold the 1994 National SF convention.

I think it deplorable that this was circulated anonymously; if you disagree with something, fine, but let's have a name. After all, we know who is running the Constantinople bid. And, for preference, if you do disagree with their bid, a viable alternate bid (no bid, to date).

That said, I won't be voting for Constantinople, or attending. I refuse to have anything to do with any conventions held at the Southern Cross - some of us still remember their treatment of attendees in 1985. I'm also dislike the idea of a joint media/SF NatCon. It is too easy for literary interests to be swamped by the more numerous (and probably more active) media fans.

Alarming Watch

Since the age of twelve I have used a small, mechanical, analog dial Enicar wrist watch. Y'know, with the big hand and the small hand ...

It is no longer as accurate as it once was. The glass has been replaced twice, and perhaps isn't as waterproof as it once was. The wrist strap replaced perhaps a dozen times. However I can see no very good reason to replace this watch.

Nevertheless, it did occur to me that, for a trip, I needed something with an alarm.

I didn't really have a travel alarm clock small enough to carry, so I went in search of a wrist watch with an alarm. Being a gadget oriented person, instead of checking at a jeweller or watch-maker, I checked Jaycar, the local electronic hobbyist shop.

Did they have the watch for me. "Does everything, only A$24.95".

Five ordinary alarms, and one for any time up to a year in the future. It had settings for Daylight Saving Time ... for 18 time zones. You could even change the names of the cities indicated in each time zone. Day and date and month and even year. It had six different buttons to adjust this mass of stuff.

Room for up to 50 names, together with telephone numbers, and two different modes of showing them, so you could see extra long phone numbers. And a right pain it was, to `type' using just an `up' key and a `down' key.

It took most of the flight across the Pacific to work out how to use it, but it really was neat being able to flick between time zones, and see how far apart two cities were in time.

I took great delight in demonstrating it to anyone silly enough to stand still long enough. And, I must admit, I did use the alarms (all of them) at different times. I liked having a complex watch.

Still, I perhaps should have been somewhat suspicious about the quality. Most watches are not actually held together by four small screws on the back. And the very small writing after the Made from Japanese parts, could have been some sort of an indicator. Also, the way the transparent sticker with Made in China on it managed to lose all its lettering within a few days was interesting.

In the fifth week of my trip the display went blank. Even when Linda Lounsbury found me a new battery in Minneapolis, the watch displayed only garbage. Alas.

Linda found me a $2 solar cell powered watch to replace it, and as in my former life, I managed OK without a mess of alarms (I only had one more day in which I needed to get to an airport early).

But I must admit, having gotten used to it, I miss that high tech gadget. I'm not buying another (that "brand" is obviously unreliable), but I'd sure like to hear of a similar watch available elsewhere (I hear Radio Shack are test marketing one with a touch screen display ... but not here they don't).

Book Reviews?

Not really, just a list of SF books obtained this trip, by way of partly explaining why I haven't had time to catch up on the reviews I should have done.

Well, 86 sf books isn't too many for a six week trip, is it? Mind you, in the 1976 trip, I bought 334 books.

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Letters of Comment

Not much room for letters this issue, nor probably in the next. We will go with two pages only ... in a very fine type.

Ken Lake

115 Markhouse Avenue, London E17 8AY England

I wanted to print Ken's trip details this issue, despite space constraints.

I'll summarise. Due to pending changes in his domestic circumstances, Ken intends to sell his equity in his home, and travel for several years. Ken would probably like to hear from fans who could help during his trip. He plans to depart for Montreal in September, then New York, where he wants to stay a month or so. Boston, Washington DC, Charlestown SC, New Orleans and places offering music. He also wants to travel round the USA on a Greyhound pass for a month or so, visiting fans wherever. From LA to Auckland, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, the Cooks, Nauru, etc to Hong Kong for a month, Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Delhi, and back to London (a total of a year).

Thence a railpass to travel Europe ... "After that I shall be homeless, penniless, jobless, futureless and hence with no reason to continue living. On the other hand, while I am making this deliberately `My Last Go-Round' because otherwise I shan't concentrate enough to enjoy everything to the utmost, there's always the unlooked for chance that I may fall into a job, marry a heiress or do something silly enough to extend my life if I can."

"This is not a classy trip: I shall not have much money and shall NOT stay in hotels - they isolate one from the very things I want to see and from the people I want to meet - or eat in posh restaurants."

{{I wish you luck on your trip, and with whatever comes afterwards, and hope that you do get some help while travelling. EL}}

Roger Sims

34 Creekwood Square, Glendale, Ohio, 45246, USA 12 February 1992

I do believe this is my very first LOC ever. Pat (my long suffering wife) did one for Lan's Lantern a few years back. So to even the score, so to speak, I am now sitting at Dick Spellman's computer typing this loc when I should instead be typing pages for the second issue of my genzine.

{{I will do that article for you, really I will! EL}}

Lyn McConchie

What was all the goings-on at Suncon? I have the feeling some of us in Kiwiland may have missed all the ramifications. It sounds as if three recent Aussie cons have been disasters (for the GoHs anyhow). The Harlan version I heard was that he agreed to come, then the concomm announced they couldn't afford the first class fare he hadn't asked for in the first place and cancelled him. How much truth is there in that?

{{We heard prior to the con, that it was the con chair who had to cancel, due to costs. Harlan certainly didn't cancel. Chalk it up to inexperience. See the letter in Thyme by Cathy, reprinted from the con handouts, for as much as we are likely to hear. EL}}

May see you in May when I hope to get over to Sydney for four-five days.

Teddy Harvia

PO Box 905, Euless, Tx. 76039 USA 28 January 1992

You Aussies are more insular than I thought. I'll look elsewhere for the names and addresses of artists from Down Under.

The dead sheep story pulled the wool over my eyes. I've encountered nothing more exotic on my doorstep than a dead dog.

The typos on your back page were a delight. I could not find the illo on page 12. Peggy Ranson terminates her last name with an "n", not "m". Is Sarah Price really Sarah Prince? You even dropped an "e" out of your own fanzine name.

{{The perils of doing a fanzine over the space of a few days! EL}}

Terry Jeeves

56 Red Scar Drive, Scarborough, YU12 5RQ, England 22nd February 1992

Sorry to hear of all the Convention snafus, but I suppose such are inevitable with the expansion in size of the modern con. For me they are now too big and too expensive. Too big because you can't locate all the people you want to meet - nor can you get a drink without Rugby scrumming to get to the bar. Too expensive with attendance fees at *20 or so. For me to attend a London con costs a minimum of *200 or *400 if we both go. I much prefer small friendly cons.

Can't agree on legalising drugs to reduce crime - the drugs themselves cause even greater troubles with addicts robbing and mugging to feed their habits. Legalise drugs - no way. I'd rather see 'em bag fags and alcohol.

Ian Gunn

PO Box 567, Blackburn, Vic 3130 5 February 1992

In response to Leanne Frahm's loc, in which she refers to Melbourne fandom going through a cycle of immaturity, I do hope she's referring to New Wave fandom.

Well, we're still here, still almost as immature and still doing the things we enjoy. The difference is that we've gone legit. We've been running cons, getting on award ballots, infiltrating old guard institutions like ANZAPA, consolidating our power base, expanding, setting up revolutionary cells in other states, and some of us are dabbling in the international arena.

We still like making noises, but ours differ from Peter Booth's in that ours tend to be chuckles, guffaws and hoots of derision rather than snarls and shouts.

As for Teddy Harvia's plea for Australian fan art, yes, there are indeed plenty of down under doodlers, but most of them tend to stick to what the traditionalists like to term "media fandom". We're working on it.

Ned Brooks

713 Paul Street, Newport News, Va. 23605 USA 29 January 1992

Someone asked me the other day whatever happened to Paul Harwitz, and here he is defending motorcyclists - against what? Bugs on their teeth, accusations of lunacy, noise pollution charges?

{{How can you tell a happy motorcyclist? Bugs on their teeth. EL}}

Maybe the fellow that Lloyd Penney saw in the elevator with the bush hat was Stu Tait, one of the "Canadian botanists" who liberated Tasmania in 1975 - he took a bush hat back with him as spoils of war. Lloyd mentions the sequel to The Enchanted Duplicator - I read this with some trepidation, but the magic is still there.

Why do you want to find people who aren't fans and convince them to become fans? Fandom was more fun when there weren't quite so many of us ... Perhaps I will start a counter effort to convince people to gafiate ...

Karen Pender-Gunn

PO Box 567, Blackburn, Vic. 3130 5th January 1992

Note the modern technology, a felt tip pen instead of a biro. I would have typed it but the typewriter is broked, and as for a computer, I'll get one of those when the salesperson's start talking a brand of English I have some hope of understanding.

{{I remember when a biro was new technology! Try a Macintosh computer. EL}}

Dear, dear poor Peter Booth. Maybe if he is self-abusing himself, he should stop. If he isn't self-abusing himself, maybe he should start! Poor person sounds like he should go for a nice long holiday. Being an ex-skinhead isn't a reason to go round foaming at the mouth. Being a bit of an ex-punk myself I don't feel the need to go round bellowing at people in print!


John Berry sends a postcard offering crash space, and suggesting I try Potlatch, a small Seattle con "focused on SF writing and reading on 14th February, put on by the Seattle fannish con organizers (not the bozos currently doing Norwescons)."

David Carroll has changed address to 29/88 Albert Road, Strathfield, NSW, 2135. He does a (mostly) Dr Who fanzine Burnt Toast.

Don Carter offered smoke free crash space, in a postcard showing the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array in New Mexico. As it happened, I saw Don before the card arrived, and got to ride round Cincinnati in his Toyota M2.

Maia Cowan sends a postcard "we are saving for the `Disney Worldcon' "

Don Fitch makes suggestions about visiting Mpls, and reports on his efforts towards the CorFlu hospitality suite "The major emphasis will probably be on variety ... maybe with secondary emphasis on finishing up that little jar of Vegemite I brought back from AussieCon 1." He also adds, re my suggestion of a six pack of Jolt Cola "Pelz thinks it is still on the market (and said that one can ought to be enough;)"

Kenneth Forman writes about SNAFFU (PO Box 95941, Las Vegas, NV 89119) and their convention, SilverCon 1, on May 1 to 3 (nice group growing in that area, I believe - see my CorFlu report for more on those I met).

Parris (and George RR Martin by proxy) sends a postcard, saying George is doing a 90 minute pilot of a SF series called "doors" for ABC.

Joyce Scrivner mentions she has 5 boxes of computer and electronic magazines that I could go through (I brought perhaps 30 home ... oh, the weight!)*

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A personal journal and science fiction fanzine * Written and published by Eric Lindsay

Gegnschein is published when I have enough material and time to do an issue. Comments should be sent to: Eric Lindsay, 7 Nicoll Avenue, Ryde, NSW 2112 Australia. (Obsolete)

Telephone: BH, Mon-Thu (02) 330 2254 (Uni Technology, Sydney), AH, Mon-Wed (02) 809 4610 AH, Thu and all day Fri, Sat, Sun, (Insulting messages on answering machine at) (047) 51 2258 (Obsolete)

Electronic Mail: eric at (Obsolete) zen maths uts edu au ISSN #0310-9968 Ask Jean about trades, since she keeps the mailing lists.

Copyright * 1992. All rights returned to the contributors upon publication.

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.