Gegenschein 71 November 1994

Pigeon Towed, by John Berry

I regard my sense of humour as being reasonably subtle, although during translation to the written word I have the tendency to (as one critic wrote several years ago) use sledge hammer blows to emphasize a point.

Thirty years or so ago I published in my Pot Pourri what I thought to be an extremely witty account of an archaeological investigation carried out by myself and my son Colin. We lived in Northern Ireland at this time, and we discovered the ruins of a large country house built to the design of the Bishop of Londonderry three centuries earlier. During World War II it had been used as living quarters for military personnel, which of course hadn't helped to maintain its historic virginity. After the war, the house was sold to a `Philistine' for an amazingly small sum, and he made a quick fortune by ripping off the roof and selling lead. So Colin and I came across this pathetic ruin, and I noted that around the high ceilings, a few strips of magnificent Italian stucco remained in place. I immediately considered that it would be a wonderful thing to salvage the work of these imported craftsman and attempt to collect sufficient sections to perhaps encircle my den in my house in Belfast. Therefore, with the use of accurately aimed lumps of brickwork, we managed to retain small strips, still clean and pure white although abruptly exposed to the elements. Unfortunately some of the strips smashed on impact like shrapnel, but I did collect enough to make a small frieze, much admired by friends. I was rather surprised at the adverse comment this article received in fanzines, one prominent critic stating it was a classic example of `serious constructive vandalism.'

Therefore I must warn that my story herewith will likely once again lead to adverse comment, but it is an incident I must write in order to expunge it from my mind ... frequently, in the early hours, when sleep becomes an unavailable commodity, I think about the sordid affair, and therefore I have taken this opportunity to enter the abstract confession box in the hope that the unexpurgated revelation will serve as a salve to my conscience.

County Fermanagh is the western county of the Ulster Six, and only a few miles further west in Republic of Ireland territory the Atlantic ocean pounds across the western coast of Ireland. It is a beautiful county, large lakes of blue water, flat grassland, trees, ancient artifacts, and superb fishing and shooting. One of my friends in Belfast had relatives living in Fermanagh, and he stated he was going to have a day's shooting ... specifically attempting to decimate the duck population. He asked if I would like to spend the day with him? I do not like to see ducks getting blasted ... indeed, I have an affinity with ducks, but they are still delicious when roasted with green peas and roasted potatoes, so I took a day's leave, prepared to have a complete rest from the pressures surrounding me ... to commune once more with the countryside, to hear the delicate whistle of the Lesser Spotted Tit Warbler, to breath pure clean air wafted in via the Gulf Stream.

The day prior to the trip, I told a neighbour of the project, and he snapped his fingers.

"Listen," he enthused. "Do me a favour, will you? I have a fantastic racing pigeon ... cost me a fortune, it did. Will you take it to Fermanagh with you, and release it ... it's around a hundred miles which is reasonable intermediate training."

Naturally I said I would be delighted. Next morning, Rupert Nicholson, my friend, called at my house in his car. We accompanied my neighbour to his pigeon loft. Jerking heads surveyed us warily, as if Pigeon Ghod had been in contact with the shapely blue and grey birds.

The neighbour proudly waved a hand in front of a cage displaying a touching family scene. A female pigeon was sitting proudly in a nesting box, and strutting in front of her was this magnificent creature ... a pigeon such as I had never seen before ... streamlined to perfection, pouting like mad, and uttering a seductive cooing noise. The neighbour then performed a most unsporting act. He picked up a young pigeon buck from a nearby cage, opened the family cage, pulled out the protesting racer and replaced him with the itinerant young pigeon, who couldn't believe his luck. The final act of devastating cruelty was performed before our eyes. The man held the frantic pigeon in front of the cage so that he could see the newcomer energetically pressing his suite. He was a writhing mass of spewing feathers in my neighbour's hand. He was put in a basket and it was handed to me. The basket jangled in my hand as the pigeon strove to escape.

"Why did you do that, Reg?" I asked in rather an aggressive manner.

"Simple," he smirked. "When you release that pigeon, he'll bust a gut to get here as soon as possible."

Hmmm. I pondered on this logic as we drove westwards along the motorway to Dungannon, thence to Ballygawly, finally into beautiful Fermanagh, and the weather had changed with us to finally conform to Autumnal brilliance.

Rupert's relatives were really kind, and had prepared a huge meal on the long table in the farm house. We drank copiously, so much so that Rupert's slurred speech suggested that in the afternoon the ducks would be quite safe but perhaps I wouldn't. Strong coffee was served to Rupert, and in the surprisingly hot blaze of the afternoon sun, he staggered out with the shotgun under his arm. Our host passed comment about the heat of the sun on his car, and should he put it in a shed, but Rupert said something about the heat being good for his low batteries.

Rupert used a lot of ammunition that afternoon, adding to the lead content of the countryside. I always stood directly behind him, and he was so befuddled that he didn't seem to notice my surreptitious nudge on his gun arm when the tottering barrels were roughly aimed in the right direction. On one occasion a floating feather dappled onto a nearby lake, and Rupert insisted on stepping into the placid water and thrashing about in a vain search for a defunct duck. The cold water alerted him to his lack of success but when we returned to the farmhouse, devoid of a kill, he said he had really enjoyed himself and was in really good form, smiling and telling rude anecdotes to the host and his boggle-eyed family. At least Rupert accepted his responsibilities as a driver, and refused the proffered alcohol.

The sun was seeking the seclusion of the horizon as we left. The farmer gave us boxes of eggs and muslin-wrapped sides of ham. Rupert opened the boot to receive them, and suddenly uttered a blistering oath as he saw the inert pigeon basket.

"Christ," he mouthed, "you forgot to release the frigging pigeon."

I tried to explain that it was a joint misdemeanour, but words failed me as Rupert gingerly opened the basket.

It was pitiful ... a throbbing eye full of frustration signified that the bird was just about with us. It tried to lift itself up on one wing, as if to address us with a homily about man's inhumanity to bird, but it just had no strength. Its feathers fluffed pathetically, it gave one last sustained sqwark, riddled with antipathy, and was pronounced close to death. It would not give in, though ... occasionally its head turned and the crossed eyes looked at me accusingly.

Rupert hit the accelerator that night. I held the pigeon in the crook of my left arm, and at Rupert's suggestion, I breathed on it ...flashing headlights of approaching cars illuminated the grim scene, a slight movement of feathers as my breath caressed the dying bird.

I reckon we created a record that night ... twenty six minutes from Dungannon to Belfast on the motorway ... we reached Belfast and he cut corners and crossed traffic lights until we reached my house. We went to the lounge, and I announced with a lump in my throat that birdie rigor mortis had set in. What to do?

A smile of triumph flittered across Rupert's face. He took the bird from my hands, and motioned me to follow him. We tracked down my garden hedge towards the light in the pigeon loft. Reg was standing outside, emitting some sort of noise like a gurgling of spittle, intelligible only to pigeon. He ceased the coaxing call, switched off the pigeon loft light and walked up the path to his house. I could have sworn I heard a stifled sob. As soon as Reg closed the door, Rupert lobbed the torso into the next garden, and we tiptoed back to my house.

I made a point of leaving for the office very early next morning, and worked until late at night, but when I got home, my wife said that Reg wanted to see me, no matter how late I got home.

I knocked on his front door, and he invited me in. I was struggling for words, trying to lie myself out of the grim situation, the 'did he arrive home in a fast time?' sort of thing, but he shook my hand warmly.

"So sad," he said, his eyes creased in torment, "do you know that he actually reached the steps of the loft. He must have tried too hard to get back to his mate and he strained his heart. I'll never do that again."

I was so carried away with the utter pathos revealed in the scenario that I was on the point of making an admission, but sanity prevailed ... I reasoned that my silence would be a definite boost for local pigeon domesticity.


Yet another late issue, mainly because I have been neglecting to write things up as they occur. I had to halt the letter column before typing up the most recent few locs (next issue probably). I obviously couldn't leave John Berry's story any longer. Also, as sometimes seems typical, I find I need to rush into print to report on my trip plans. Various work stories also have to wait until a future issue. Likewise, my Midwestcon and Westercon trip report must wait. With a bit more organisation, I could make this a lot easier ... indeed, it would be nice to get the previous trip reports done prior to starting new trips.

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Another USA visit - Ditto, Loscon and Smofcon

I decided I could get away from work for two weeks in mid November (after the exams start), so at very short notice I arranged a booking on a Qantas flight to the USA, after work at 3.45 p.m. on Thursday 17th November, to Los Angeles. It arrives in Los Angeles around 10:10 the same morning. I've arranged a Northwest flight (NW50Q) continue on to Detroit for Ditto (18 - 20 November), arriving around 7:40 in the evening of Thursday 17th November. I'm sort of hoping that one of the Ann Arbor fans will be able to rescue me from the airport. The wonders of email will probably ensure all is organised before I leave home.

I've arranged a lift to Cincinnati with the wonderful Pat and Roger Sims after Ditto, so I should be able to see a bunch of fans from the area. Flights were tighter from here (and even tighter from Dayton, another possibility). I managed a Delta flight to Los Angeles at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday 24th November, arriving in Los Angeles at 10:55 the same morning.

As always, I've been sending email out to the usual suspects, so I sort of hope most of the material here is circulating round my North American friends before I get round to mailing this. With luck, before I even print this!

Apart from fannish events, I'm hoping to find a Kinney's shoe store, and get a pair of Easy Walker shoes (such a mundane ambition). Naturally, I'll also be looking for electronic gadgets, and especially for palmtop computers, and for cheap Apple Newton 1 megabyte memory cards.

As mentioned, on Thanksgiving I fly to Los Angeles for Loscon, where I need to run an Australia in 1999 worldcon bidding party. Hmm, I wonder how the hell you get from LA International to the Burbank Hilton? Getting there a day early means I may get some rest (apart from the Early Bird party). I stay in Los Angeles (perhaps with a side trip to Las Vegas if I can find suitable airfares) for Smofcon the next weekend, taking notes on the differences between US and Australian cons, and collecting advice for the Australian worldcon bid.

I leave Los Angeles on the evening flight on Sunday 4th December, arriving back at work on the Tuesday morning, 6th December, straight from the flight. I pretend that I'm going to get some work done once I get there!

If you think this trip doesn't make a lot of sense, I'm inclined to agree with you. Jean Weber won't be along this time. She has a new job, and is too sensible. Choose either reason. On the other hand, both of us hope to get to Corflu in Las Vegas in April, and a few other places afterwards.

Work Party (continued)

The continuing saga of the renovations to our 15th floor at work extended far into this year, despite being officially completed on 24th December 1993. In September the contractor sent a person who appeared to be a carpenter for a few days to do some minor fault fixing. In addition, he was to make wooden chair rails in our new meeting room, to protect the plaster walls from marking.

Comes a call from the carpenter. Not exactly surprisingly, the five metre long rails he ordered won't fit in the elevator, so he has left them on the ground floor. Could I arrange to get them up to the 15th floor?

Have you ever noticed that you can't find students when you want them, but they always find you when you are hiding? The Honours students were in a room playing cards, but agreed to help out. Down at the third floor, we hoisted the wood (which was thin, and not real heavy) vertical between the stairs, and then in groups of three started passing it up. As the person at the bottom ran out of wood to pass up, they would race up the stairs to where the top of the wood appeared, and start passing it further up. After we got some rhythm going, we got rather good at it. So good that we nearly passed our floor!

I fully intend to get some coloured, five metre poles, and start an annual competition. Bottom of the tower to the 30th floor. I bet that will slow down some of the more active students. Half that certainly slowed me down.*

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New Books

I suppose I'll eventually get another letter from Joseph Nicholas, complaining that I'm neither sufficiently concerned with the quality of my writing, nor with the quality of the sf I mention. True. I don't pay a lot of attention to quality, but after all, I'm only writing about fannish trips, and science fiction books. Comments like "Keep Science Fiction in the gutter where it belongs", and "SF writers are competing for your beer money" meet with my almost complete approval. It is fine by me if someone transcends the beer money level (and if I happen to notice it at all, I'll even mention it approvingly), but this stuff is not rocket science (not that rocket science is all that great either these days). To me, sf is something to read on the train, and I'm damn grateful that authors do produce material I can enjoy and with which I can relax. In any case, I don't regard most other topics as being of much more intrinsic merit.

Now, maybe if I were writing about the dead past, following Lord Acton's dictum that those who fail to heed the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it, perhaps I should be more careful. Mind you, Toynbee's 21 cycles of civilisation indicates that history isn't really cyclic ... and if it isn't cyclic, how much can you learn from it? On the third (gripping) hand (this is an SF fanzine after all), maybe historians don't understand what they are writing about. If history is only the battles won and lost, the kings and emperors and like that were pushed forward at school as being the essence of history, then it certainly is of little use. Do you understand the proper range of historical studies, or for what it can be used?

Maybe philosophy, base of all thought ... but it is the philosophers who make the claim that their subject is the base of all topics, and that may well be the self-important posturing of sociological misfits. All the interesting, predictive and speculative bits about how the universe began have already been stolen by physicists and mathematicians (most of whose material I don't understand). All that is left is empty moral speculations which are particularly pointless in an age that knows might makes right.

Maybe poetry? But then I'd need a poetic licence, probably from Miskatonic University. With a rubber stamp seal (the type with flippers) of approval, signed by William McGonigal, with Spike Milligan as Patron.

Crosstown Traffic edited by Stuart Coupe

Five Islands Press, 1993, 229pp, A$

An anthology of crime stories by 12 Australian authors, who were asked to produce hybrid works, where romance, horror, fantasy, sf or western meet crime. Edited by Stuart Coupe, Julie Ogden and Robert Hood, it features stories by Marele Day (western, sort of), Garry Disher (fantasy), Jean Bedford (future sf), Steve Wright (black romance), Robert Hood (zombie), Peter Corris (Hollywood western), Robert Wallace (manners), Dominic Cadden (Chandler meets the Brothers Grimm), Terry Dowling (Ab'O), Bill Congreave (vampire), Kerry Greenwood (horror), Jan McKemmish (a poem, which I didn't read).

The quality of the stories seemed pretty good, and there were several I thoroughly enjoyed. The publishers are at PO Box U34, Wollongong University, NSW 2522, and the book is ISBN 1 875064 15 4. The price for the trade paperback isn't shown, but we probably bought it via Justin Ackroyd's Slow Glass Books.

Anderson, Kevin J, Climbing Olympus

Warner, Sept 1994, 297pp, US$5.50

Humans are starting to terraform Mars, however the people who really broke the back of the job were the Russian adin. These heavily modified humans could live on Mars, however now their job was over, they were no longer needed. Even their creator was about to be sent on the unwelcome journey home. Fine piece of science fiction.

Anderson, Kevin J, Dark Apprentice

Bantam (Transworld), July 1994, 354pp, US$5.99 A$10.95

Middle novel of the StarWars Jedi Academy trilogy. Luke is locating and training new Jedi, however one is seduced by the remaining power of the original Dark Lord of the Sith. Actually read rather well.

Anthony, Patricia, Cold Allies

Ace, April 1994, 298pp, US$4.99 A$9.95

Why are alien mind vampires being seen on the high tech battlefields of the third world war? Great reviews, but I could never get into it.

Asimov, Isaac, Forward the Foundation

Bantam (Transworld), July 1994, 477pp, A$12.95

Four linked stories, blurbed as the final chapter of the Foundation stories, which struck me as a little curious, considering how they dealt with the life of Hari Seldon, and how he devised psychohistory. Alas, I thought it was talkative and boring. However anyone who doesn't have it will need it to complete their Foundation stories.

Baird, Wilhelmina, Crashcourse

Ace, Sept 1993, 277pp, US$4.99

Filmmaking in a dark future is a risky business for actors, as the audience plug into your emotions. Producers get better results by allowing things to really happen, so sometimes your co-star is a mass murderess.

Baxter, Stephen, Raft

ROC, Jan 1992, 303pp, US$4.99

Interestingly written semi juvenile adventure (seventeen year old grows up in different subsistence spacefareing societies), set in a universe where gravity is a million times stronger than here. If you can accept that humans can survive in this universe (I find that difficult) then the story is fine, especially as a first novel. My rating; insufficiently rigourous.

Brin, David, Glory Season

Bantam, June 1994, 772pp, US$5.99

An interesting young adventure story, set in a world where men are a distinct minority, and considered almost another race. Genetic engineering three thousand years before has tied male and female sexuality into opposite seasons, and most births are by cloning. Although some advanced technology exists, most has been deliberately discarded, and the resulting static society has survived well. However a visitor has arrived from space, and this foreshadows major changes.

The protagonists are 16 year old twin girls, trying to find their way to make a mark and earn a living in a world in which clone families control most resources. Reminds me strongly of Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness, and may well be as major a novel. Highly recommended.

Brunner, John, Muddle Earth

Ballentine DelRey, Sept 1993, 276pp, US$4.99

Revived from cryogenic suspension, Rinpoche Gibbs would be annoyed if it weren't for the tranquillisers. He specifically refused to let them turn him into a corpsicle. However during the argument about whether he is actually the long gone (but not forgotten) head of the mafia, it seems wise for him to leave (everyone is too busy arguing to pay attention).

He visits Holyrood, accidently joins a tour of the home world, and falls in love (Nixy Anangaranga-Jones has the "love at first sign" gene, and it cost her grandfather plenty of cash ... but he has plenty, because he is the head of the mafia). A weird world tour follows.

Brunner didn't take this very seriously, and neither should you. Just goes to show that most British sf authors can do the same sort of hilarious work that you expect in Hitchhikers Guide and Red Dwarf. Mind you, Brunner does get some savage digs in at organised religion (the visit to Her Wiliness Pope Joan II is hilarious). Weird story, with a heap of sf references not-very buried in the names of organisations.

Connolly, Flynn, The Rising of the Moon

Ballantine DelRey, Sept 1993, 392pp, US$4.99 A$9.95

The place of women in 21st Century Ireland was secured by compulsory church attendance, no birth control, a compulsory ID chip, and by a male relative being designated as responsible for your actions. After 15 years away, a woman from the outside world of alien contact and human colonization of distant star systems finds that this is not acceptable. But do you want to become a fugitive and rebel? A wonderful statement about prejudice and human rights.

Elliott, Kate, Jaran

Pan Macmillen, July 1994, 494pp, A$12.95

Tess flees Earth for a remote world, but the alien conquerors her brother had fought honoured him with a dukedom, and involved her in interstellar politics, while she sought true love with a primitive tribal leader.

Fiore, Edith, Abductions

Sidgwick and Jackson, Dec 1989, 342pp, $35

Clinical psychologist specialising in hypnotic regression reports on numerous recalled encounters with extraterrestrials. Mostly quick and dirty transcripts of therapy sessions with patients (many of whom appear to have been exposed to nothing more than bad 1950's sci-fi movies).

I think this style of book is tacky in the extreme, an obvious attempt to cash in on credulous bystanders. P.T. Barnum explained the economic merit of that.

That so many people could manage to come up with an `alien' background to their particular brand of disfunction indicates an iatogenic component. Like the present epidemic of child molestations, I suspect many such reports are provided by memories deliberately twisted in an attempt to please psychological workers.

Forward, Robert L and Martha Dodson, Ocean Under the Ice

Baen, June 1994, 447pp, US$4.99

Life exists on Zulu, and is related to most of the life in the Roche system. The geysers under the ice provide nutrients and energy for several species, one almost intelligent, while on the ice above, an intelligent species communicates with the visiting human and flouwen explorers. As always, I've enjoyed the inventiveness of the life forms depicted in this series.

Haldeman II, Jack C and Jack Dann, High Steel

52pp, US$4.99 Two centuries in the

ions rule governments, and when they need high orbit construction workers for space stations, they conscript them from Indian reservations. John Stranger turns out to always react correctly when problems strike, and the corporation intends to use that. However the shamanism John learnt from his tribal elder makes him stranger than they think. Throw in a message from far away aliens, Einstein the AI (and controller of the almost complete first interstellar ship) and mix in some corporate battles that sound more like drug barons fighting. Fast paced, however I thought they lost it towards the end.

Hamilton, Peter F, A Quantum Murder

Pan, June 1994, 376pp, A$12.95

A SF murder mystery, stand alone sequel to Mindstar Rising, set in the first half of the 21st Century in an England in the middle of an economic revival, being forced along by megacorp Event Horizon. It is only a few years after the overthrow of the People's Socialist Party, members of whose goon squads are still being hunted down by lynch mobs. Eccentric double Nobel Laureate Edward Kitchener is studying quantum cosmology for Event Horizon at his isolated manor when he is gruesomely murdered. Ex-Mindstar Greg Mandel is called out of retirement to solve the mystery. His empathic sense can detect when someone is lying with total accuracy. The only people on the scene who could possibly have done the dastardly deed are Kitchener's students, however if you can prove that none of them did it?

The pacing is excellent, with a most appropriate climax that actually comes right at the end. While some of the science (relating to PSI) is dubious, the whole feeling of the environment is realistic, and the characters (while larger than life) are drawn well. An excellent book for SF and mystery readers.

Harding, Simon, Streamskelter

Pan fantasy, June 1994, 246pp, A$11.95

Strange contemporary British fantasy.*

Jay, Shannnah, Envoy

Pan Australia, July 1994, 434 pages, A$11.95

Science fiction from an Australian author with whom I'm not familiar. The course of love does not run smoothly when you are the only envoy of your warlike people, and the Mediator is seducing you personally, and your society with advanced technology and limitless experience of establishing peace. With few characters, this novel could have failed badly, and indeed does trend a little close to preaching. I was impressed that the author could avoid the militaristic excesses of much science fiction, while still portraying genuine conflict of ideas.

Kress, Nancy, Beggars in Spain

AvoNova, March 1994, 438pp, US$4.99

The genetically engineered people who never need to sleep are outcasts. Hugo nominee, and no wonder.

Llywelyn, Morgan, The Elementals

Tor (Pan), March 1994 (Aust May 1994), 368pp, US$5.99 A$9.95

Ecological warning through related myths and stories.

McCaffrey, Anne, The Chronicles of Pern - First Fall

Bantam (Transworld), Sept 1994, 256pp, A$19.95

Five stories of the early days on Pern, including the evacuation of Landing, Red Hanrahan, new weyres, and a rescue run. For completists.

McCaffrey, Anne, Lyon's Pride

Corgi Transworld, Nov 1994, 347pp, A$11.95

Volume 4 in the Tower and Hive series, in which a psionic family save the universe from nasty invaders. Considering the domestic scenes, I'd have thought four chapters would be more appropriate than four books, but writers get paid by the word.

McCaffrey, Anne, To Ride Pegasus

Corgi Transworld, Sept 1994, 284pp, A$10.95

Reprint of the 1974 collection of stories about psi powers, generally covering the people who have the powers. Stories include `A Womanly Talent', `Apple' and `A Bridle for Pegasus'.

McCaffrey, Anne and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Power Lines

Bantam (Transworld), Sept 1994, 330pp, A$29.95

Ecologically correct struggle of thoughtful inhabitants of a sentient planet against the might of the corporate men who want to exploit it for profit. Bit abrupt, but there is some nicely plotted bits here. Too many damn smart cats however.

McCrumb, Sharyn, Zombies of the Gene Pool

Ballantine, March 1993, 216pp, US$4.99

Murder mystery with Jay Omega, hero (and author) of Bimbos of the Death Sun and SF expert Dr Marian Farley driving writer friend Erik Giles to a SF reunion. Some of the pseudo discussions and interlinos about the life of writers, the nature of fannish friendships (especially long distance ones), and the merits of early SF are hilarious. McCrumb's satire can be very cutting at times, and I know a lot of fans dislike these two books, but I thought it was a scream.

McKillip, Patricia A, The Cygnet and the Firebird

Pan, Sept 1994, 233pp, A$11.95 (originally 1993 Ace PB)

Broadswords, animals and sorcerers, so what else is new.

McMullen, Sean, Voices in the Light

Aphelion, 1994, 306pp, A$12.95

Blurbed as Book One of Greatwinter, featuring a cover by Grant Gittus, and is based on Sean's stories Souls in the Great Machine, The Eyes of the Green Lancer, The Glasken Chronicles and Destroyer of Illusions. Set about 2000 years hence, in a country that uses Australian placenames but could as well be the interior of any subtropical continent. Two things brought down civilisation. One was a nuclear winter, not far past our time. The other was the Call, which when it sweeps over the land draws all large mammals mindlessly with it. You cope with the Call by tethering your animals, by designing your buildings so that unbroken walls stop your movement, and by anchoring yourself with a tether so that you can't follow the Call.

Why was the mark on the moon getting larger? Would there be another Greatwinter? What caused the Call? Why couldn't you build an electronic computer, or a radio? Who is kidnapping those relatively scarce numerate individuals whose disappearance would not raise too many questions? There is some fine writing at the start of this novel, and some of these questions are answered by the end. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Middleton, Martin, The New Order

Pan Macmillan Australia, Sept 1994, 358pp, A$11.95

Book five in Chronicles of the Custodians, it includes ring bearers with strange powers, forces of light struggling against evil forces of darkness, and people and things using cutting and thrusting weapons on each other, while on a quest for a magic talisman. Not my style at all.

Moon, Elizabeth, Hunting Party

Baen, July 1993, 364pp, US$5.99

Circumstances force an ex military captain to command the personal space yacht of an aristocrat, however there is more than enough adventure awaiting her. Good fast paced adventure.

O'Neil, Dennis, Batman Knightfall

Bantam (Transworld), Oct 1994, 349pp, A$29.95

Apparently adapted from stories appearing in the comics, this series of linked episodes creates a genuine drug induced psycotic superman, who releases all of Batman's old enemies, and then destroys Batman. A replacement Batman. Miracle cure, plot complications, a third Robin. It wasn't all that bad, for something derived from comics scripts, but it is aimed at readers who are following the comics.

Paxson, Diana L, The Wolfe and the Raven

AvaNova fantasy (Transworld), April 1994 (July 1994), 328pp, US$4.99 A$10.95

Wagner's Sigfrid and Brunahild in fantasy. Seems well researched.

Paxson, Diana L and Adrienne Martine-Barnes, Master of Earth and Water

AvoNova fantasy (Transworld), June 1994 (Sept 1994), 395pp, US$4.99 A$10.95

Two women fleeing a Druid enchanter spirit the infant who will become Ireland's greatest hero into the woods.

Pratchett, Terry, Johnny and the Dead

Corgi, 1994, 188pp, A$9.95

Splendid juvenile, which reminds me of Peter S Beagle's A Fine and Private Place (praise indeed), in which Johnny Maxwell learns that the inhabitants of the cemetery don't want it turned into a building site. I've reviewed the hardcover in a previous issue.

Rankin, Robert, The Book of Ultimate Truths

Corgi Transworld, August 1994, 347pp, A$11.95

Another strange UK comedy/fantasy story. I found Rankin's early novels unreadable, so I didn't.

Rankin, Robert, Raiders of the Lost Car Park

Corgi (Transworld), Jan 1995, 350pp, A$11.95


Rickman, Phil, The Man in the Moss

MacMillan, 6 May 1994, 596pp, A$35 hardcover

Archeologists remove the Man in the Moss for study, but terror stalks the isolated village of Bridelow from its Celtic past afterwards.

Scott, Melissa, Mighty Good Road

Baen, May 1990, 306pp, US$3.95 A$8.95

When the job is too dirty for the company, they call in contractors. Salvage operators have to recover a cargo from an alien planet, full of dangerous intelligent animals of considerable ferocity. Just why was the company trying to kill them?

Scott, Melissa, Dreamships

Tor, July 1993, 338pp, US$4.99

A pilot is contracted to fly a ship that includes what might be a genuine example of AI. Superior science fiction, with realistic and different characters, politics and society. Does a proper job of possible reactions to possible AI.

Scott, Melissa, Burning Bright

Tor, May 1994, 361pp, US$4.99

Another realistic miniature society, with political manoeuvres, and a love of virtual reality role playing games. In lesser hands, this could have been disastrously bad. Instead it remains a fine multilevel novel.

Shatner, William, Tek Vengeance

Pan, June 1994, 224pp, A$12.95

Fourth in the series. Ron Goulart style crime set in a Hollywood plastic version of the future. Not very realistic. I've previously reviewed the hardcover.

Turtledove, Harry, Agent of Byzantium

Baen, March 1994, 311pp, US$4.99

Set in the early 14th Century in which Muhammad converted to Christianity, and Constantinople never fell. The seven linked stories follow Basil Argyros as he helps preserve the Empire against the barbarians and the Persian menace.

This brings him in contact with many new inventions reaching the west a tad before they did in our timeline. Blurbed as in the spirit of Flandry and James Bond, it lacks the style of the first, and the cruelty of the second, but is a decent set of adventure stories regardless.

Volsky, Paula, The Wolf in Winter

Bantam (Transworld), Oct 1994, 445pp, A$11.95

Prince Varis attempts to usurp the throne using forbidden necromancy, and is challenged by his niece. Usual dark forces in quest for empire. Spare me.

Weber, David, The Short Victorious War

Baen, April 1994, 376pp, US$5.99

Third in the Honor Harrington series, a superior military space opera story, of heroic and bloody battles against terrible odds, and the losses that even victory can bring. I like the series, despite not being very keen on most military sf.

Weis, Margaret and Tracy Hickman, Into The Labrinth

Bantam (Transworld), July 1994 (Sept 1994), 451pp, US$5.99 A$12.95

Another Death Gate fantasy novel (large flying fighting dragons and caped crusaders on the cover).

Wilson, Robert Charles, The Harvest

New English Library, 1993, 489pp, A$12.95

The aliens offered eternal life to everyone, and regeneration of the earth. One in ten thousand rejected the offer. Seen through the eyes of many of those who were unsure about whether to accept. A fine novel.

Wolverton, Dave, The Courtship of Princess Leia

Bantam Transworld, June 1994, 327pp, A$29.95

A rising new writer (presumably needing some money) gets caught in a ridiculous situation because someone at the publishers isn't thinking logically. This novel is set after the end of the movies, but well before the excellent Timothy Zahn trilogy. So, the fate of all the characters is known prior to reading the novel - where is the dramatic tension in that?

Wylie, Jonathan, The Last Augury

Corgi Transworld, July 1994, 381pp, A$11.95

Third volume in the Island and Empire fantasy. Seems much the same sorcerous battles as in Dark Fire.

Zelazny, Roger and Thomas T Thomas, Flare

Baen, Sept 1992, 344pp, A$4.99

2080, the moon is a tourist spot, and 200 trillion ton cargos move through the solar system. Mad scientist Hannibal Freede orbits close to the sun, seeking evidence of change. None expect that the sun is quite as variable a star as it turns out to be. Since no-one is looking, no-one expects the disasters that will follow. Superior sf.

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Lyn McConchie

Farside Farm, R.D. Norsewood, New Zealand 29 March 1994 06 3740 711

[obtained] some 1200-1400 books/pulpzines ... [some UK '70's SF Book Club titles given] to our library at Dannevirke. SF is the most read section, but also the smallest ...

{{Not being a collector (despite the 2540 SF titles catalogued in my library list), I couldn't sensibly respond to your kind offer to look for titles I wanted. However I am delighted to see you spreading SF through libraries, and hope others do the same. EL}}

Chester D Cuthbert

1104 Mulvey Avenue Winnipeg Manitoba R3M 1J5 Canada 17 April 1994

I doubt that I have read any of the book you reviewed, and I am unlikely to add any to my collection because I ceased buying when my basement cartons of books were damaged by water entering from the weeping tiles during heavy rain last July 25th. {{Always sad to hear of a collector finding books damaged. EL}}

Since his objections to my economic views published more than two years ago by you, I think that Buck Coulson has come around to agree with me that technology is not at fault for failing to benefit human beings and that it is the economic system which needs dramatic revision. We must design a system which accepts people as more important than money. {{If money is the root of all evil, why not abolish it? We don't do so because money is a factor in the production of material wealth and well-being. Not the sole factor, nor even the most important, but nevertheless an inescapable requirement.

The concept of money can be defined by the use or purpose it serves. That purpose is as an open form of barter, acceptable to a majority of those with whom you would trade. The Romans once used salt, some tribal people use cattle, and the incorruptible metal gold has long been used. Now we use paper money, which has absolutely no intrinsic value. It is worth no more than a plastic poker chip, acceptable only because we know that, in a limited area and for a limited time, it has value to others nearby, and will therefore be accepted by them.

One of the biggest problems with money is that it can be both forged and devalued. In the distant past, when the value of a gold coin depended upon its gold content, it was a standard practice of emperors and kings to decrease the gold content and lower the weight, and by this means steal from their subjects. The fine milling on present day coins is in imitation of the same practice applied to gold coins in an effort to stop people scraping gold from the edges. Historically the biggest forgers and devaluers of money have always been governments. EL}}

Don Fitch

3908 Frijo, Covina CA, 91722 USA 20 April 1994

Re. Copyright: it's my understanding that the new U.S. law corresponds pretty much with the Berne Convention, and that the use of "*" merely helps establish intent (and date) more clearly. I gather, also, that material actually placed in Public Domain can be used by others in a for-profit work (i.e., a software program so designated by the anarchistic developer was picked up and used/sold by a commercial firm).

Teddy Harvia

701 Regency Drive Hurst, TX 76054 USA 23 April 1994

Michael Hailstone is suffering from the Delaware syndrome, the ailment which afflicts SF writers who make the culture of an alien planet no more complex than that of the tiny state of Delaware. Western capitalism and culture have certainly influenced the world but they have hardly replaced native economies and culture complete. {{Not to worry; they will be replaced before long. EL}} The greatest Western export has been personal freedom, which encourages greater diversity, not less. Drinking Pepsi and wearing jeans alone do not make one a corrupt western clone. You must look deeper. I discovered a Yothhu Yindi CD that had been languishing in the bins of an upscale record store for 2 years. I've fallen in love with the aboriginal rock bands sound. {{Nice to see some cultural exports, such as traditional Aboriginal rock. EL}}

Terry Jeeves

56 Red Scar Drive, Scarborough N. Yorkshire YO12 5RQ UK 23 April 1994

... just got back from Mecca* and have a huge mail pile to clear. *Mecca in this case being South Wales and a visit to Hay On Wye. THE book centre village of the UK. Some 26 bookshops including a huge one specialising in SF. Last time I got a 1930 ASF for 20 quid, this time I plugged half a dozen other collection gaps.

Your collection of gadgets in Gegenschein really hooked me as my own interests have been similar although not as advanced. At ten, I hooked all my electrical gubbins into one line * light, bell, induction coil, etc. I experimented with junked radar parts and finally volunteered for the RAF (1941) and became a wireless mechanic * two years on large ground station transmitters then two years on a B-24 squadron. After demob, I bought an old radar indicator and stripped it completely and used the tube to build a 6" oscilloscope * followed by several superhets, drill controllers, amplifiers, and suchlike. Haven't done much since the early sixties when transistors, ICs, and printed circuits took over completely * but you're dead right about equipment improving but radio programs still as dull as ever.

Loved the cover cartoon of the little chap always looking for something else.

Pamela Boal

4 Westfield way, Charlton Height Wantage, Oxon OX12 7EW UK 26 April 1994

The story of your work place is appalling. It seems you have the lot, bureaucratic bungling, architectural incompetence and contractors corner cutting.

I really liked the cover of #68. I had a friend who made or invented things which were later made or marketed by someone else. So often I would remark on a useful new item and he would fish around in a cupboard and show me a version he had made a few years previously. He made things for fun or his own use so was not bothered about marketing them, that is until he came up with a new improved dialysis machine. ... he moved to a government laboratory with funding to develop his machine ... he reached his 65th birthday ... compulsory retirement. His assistants were made redundant and the whole project abandoned.

As the extremely light aircraft models Hal Hardenbergh mentions are so fragile, competitions are held in large hangers, a modest breeze would cause such models to crash and disintegrate. It would take quite a stretch of the imagination to envisage such aircraft being developed to the point of engaging in a dogfight.

John Zube

7 Oxley St Berrima NSW 2577 29 April 1994

The low price of $3000 for getting a text CD-ROM ready, containing perhaps 600,000 pages, from computerised text, seems to have been a home-production price with home equipment and not counting the labour involved. The lowest price I saw recently mentioned in a newspaper article was $10,000.

Has anyone produced an anarchist - libertarian CD-ROM as yet?

I entered libertarian SF titles that I have heard of in my compilation of bibliographical notes, by author, on freedom writings. So far I have never seen a separate and long listing of such titles. Have you? One should imagine that libertarian SF fans would have compiled one long ago, together with their comments.

I recently subscribed to Analog again, although its quality is much below its classical periods. For an extension of my subscription, running out in October, they asked me in March! And letter replies are published in it a year or more (if I remember right) later, when the original contribution is largely forgotten. Another instance of how computerization can speed things up?

John Snowden

18 Martin Road Glen Iris, Vic 3123 30 April 1994

I try to maintain a active interest in SF at least in my reading if not in my attendance at conventions. As an avid comic collector (yes still) I have also watched with interest the renaissance in Australia in Australian comic book publishing which has taken place over the past three or four years. This development has also been supported by a number of local and very professionally run comic book conventions both here in Melbourne and also Sydney. In turn these conventions appear to have the support and sponsorship of a number of the major and second tier comic book companies in the US. Who know * perhaps in the next ten years we will see a viable professional comic book industry that is self sustaining.

Ruth Berman

2809 Drew Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55416 USA 10 May 10994

Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad is delightful. I was interested to see in it a fairly large chunk based on The Wizard of Oz. This story seems to be gradually getting better known in Britain, mostly because of the (MGM) movie version. US fantasy writers are more likely to draw on L Frank Baum's book, and also on the sequels, although the general public are more likely to know the movie only (and in many cases don't seem to be aware of the existence of the book).

Buck Coulson is maybe being unreasonably gloomy in speculating that more automation leading to fewer jobs must lead to more unemployment and more crime by way of filling up an unemployed's unemployed hours. The jobs could be shared around more, and two people each working a 20 hour work week would probably each be happier than either one without a job or one with a 40 hour week. A factor in the longer run is the gradually increasing availability of easy methods of birth control and abortion, which could probably lead to a reduction in population, if those who consider such things irreligious could be stopped from preventing access to them for those who don't consider them so.

Chester Cuthbert

1104 Mulvey Avenue, Winnipeg Manitoba R3M 1J5 Canada 25 May 1994

Although you made no editorial comment [in Geg 70], I'm sure that you agree with the general trend of my thinking: that people should benefit from technology. I'm glad to say ... our Liberal Government is giving serious consideration to instituting a Guaranteed Annual Income. I hope that it will be adequate to eliminate poverty in Canada. Do you happen to know anything about an Australian named Eric Frank Russell? Wartime fanzines indicated his existence, and it is unusual to have two people with exactly the same name in the same field of interest. Yet I also discovered an American John Ingham, unrelated to our English friend! {{John Berry (the original) and Seattle fan John D Berry, the Tasmanian and American Mike O'Brien. EL}}

Buck Coulson

2677W-500N, Hartford City IN 47348 USA 21 May 1994

I certainly wouldn't take a two hour walking tour if I had a bad back. {{Took my mind off it more than groaning round at the hotel. EL}}

Juanita is a great fan of Stephen Jay Gould, and I'm somewhat of one. Very interesting writing.

A lot of US cons send panelists a program in advance, so they have at least a little time to prepare. From my experience, times in advance can run from a week (great) to a day (not too helpful, but better than nothing). Of course, some still let you find out what panels you're on when you arrive.

Most US fans are automobile people, because one needs a car to get from one town to another. Inside a town they can be dispensed with * sometimes.

I find the age of average con participants to be quite young, but then I'm 66. I suppose most "young" fans are in their late 20s to late 30s. Teenagers are mostly video/movie fans or gamers. Corflu participants would probably be older; I forget which fan photos you used.

As Juanita pointed out to someone who said that "all your friends" are in First Fandom, most of our friends in fandom are in their 30s.

I am not, however, young enough to want an all-in-one gadget. When my watch quits working I want my credit cards separate so I can buy another one. When I lose the car keys I want a separate phone card. I don't need an appointment card and I don't carry calendars around with me, and I certainly wouldn't want to have all of them quit working at the same time. The trouble with Buck Rogers' gadgets is that they weren't real-world; they worked whenever he needed them. Real-world gadgetry doesn't. On the other hand, I have no real objection to phones, even with the telephone salesmen that come with them; they're handy gadgets ... Besides, if necessary I can always disavow anything I said on the phone. "Oh, you must have misunderstood me ..." Harder to do that when it's in print.

I'm not sure that Eric [Mayer] is right that "household income" does "almost always" include more than one wage earner. Part of the time it does, which is probably enough to lower the average wage, but there are an awful lot of "single parents" these days, and even more individuals living alone without kids. Yes, the US government could solve its budget problems by downsizing. Probably half of the people working for the government are unnecessary. Since they also seem inept, I don't know how they'd live if they were fired, but the government would work a lot better. And cheaper.

Ah, but being non-religious is a reason for not ignoring "the most hyped and most commercialized" holiday. You're not religious and neither is the holiday, so you're made for each other.

I did not neither kill you off in To Renew The Ages. You staggered off, wounded, and were never heard from again, but your body never showed up, so you may have recovered and gone on being villainous; just not to the hero.

I'm told the Chicago P.O. is very nearly a total loss; spaced-out clerks, sacks of mail stuffed into vacant buildings or occasionally into trash cans, deliveries close to non-existent.

Don't recall if I've mentioned my heart attack to you. I had one in March, but I not only survived, the tests showed that my heart and arteries are in better shape now than they were 9 years ago. We went to a convention two days after I got out of hospital, with the approval of the heart specialist. "Keep on doing whatever you've been doing."

Par Nilsson

Guldringen 13 30259 Halmstead, Sweden

The cover for Geg 68 is by Argentinian cartoonist Quino, a.k.a. Joaquin Lavado.

German radio reported a significant breakthrough in solar cell research by one Professor Green of the University of New South Wales. A decrease of costs on the order of 80% was predicted, provided that mass production of the new cells proved feasible. {{Unfortunately, the price decrease is five to ten years away, even if everything works. And better cells don't solve the storage problem. EL}}

Mike McInerney

83 Shakespeare St Daly City CA 94014 USA 26 May 1994

I liked the cover on your gadget issue. Goes to show that you should never throw anything out that you might need to buy back later!

You explain the phrase "valve (tube) radios" for your USA readers, but fail to realise most of us don't know what you mean by "the local tip". {{The city dump, the garbage dump. Fruitful source of components in the past, and sadly neglected in modern recycling in some areas. EL}}

Don't know what Panadine is but can guess it is some painkiller like codeine. You don't mention having a prescription so you're lucky to be allowed to buy it at all. {{500 mg paracetamol plus 8 mg codeine phosphate. Standard over the counter analgesic where I live. I can't see any very good reason why I shouldn't be able to buy it. EL}}

At Confrancisco there seemed to be a lot of young fans running around. I don't know if they were all Star Trek fans or not but surely some of them must be fanzine fans - Corflu is a gathering of a certain group - fanzine fans who are into fanac enough to want to go to a con where comics, horror, Star Trek, etc. are mostly ignored. They also need to find out where the Corflu is being held. I don't actually know where the next Corflu is or even when it is, and I've read 25+ fanzines in the last 5 months!

I'm 50 now and most of the fans who were active during the '60's when I was most active are 50+. It's only natural that people who have known each other for so long tend to gather together to have cons or parties. I'm sure young fans are welcome, but they might feel a little out of place since they won't have as many shared memories. Some fans worry about new blood - they mean new blood that respects and cares about the old days and the old ways. It's natural to want to preserve traditions and histories of our past doings - most religions do this sort of thing. It's also natural for new blood to want its own traditions.

{{The next Corflu is in Las Vegas in April. There is a fascinating group of new young fans there, who I gather were well on the way to inventing their own fandom when Joyce and Arnie Katz moved to the area. Now these new fans are carrying on in the old traditions, doubtless considerably assisted by Arnie and Joyce. They are in FAPA, doing their own fanzines, and have held a number of conventions. I've found this fannish expansion fascinating and most encouraging, and think the Katz should get a medal for their efforts. EL}}

Bill [Donaho], Dave [Rike] and myself went up to the Australia in 99 bidding party [at Baycon] and were welcomed by gracious host Spike Parsons. The party was pretty good apart from the lack of beer {{hard to get decent Australian beer over to parties - most of the export beers are not real good. EL}} Fruit punch and guacamole dip don't have quite the same impact as a cool Cerveza. Spike had just come back from Corflu and I showed her some pictures I had of the first Corflu back in 1984. Dick Ellington, Ted White, Dave Rike, Len Bailles, Art Widner, Linda Blanchard. "They look so young," she said.

Sheryl Birkhead

23629 Woodfield Road Gaithersberg, MD 20862 USA 15 June 1994

According to M&M they discontinued the peanut binder some time ago - but for some obscure reason still list it under ingredients. If Jean is really interested - ask them, it might prove to be true. {{Don't believe she would trust that style of candy. EL}}

How do you print your business cards? "Regular" printer or what (to handle the heavy stock). {{Xerox 1090 photocopier handles heavy enough stock to fake it - they aren't really great business cards after all. EL}}

What IS the US - Australian exchange rate? {{A$1=74cUS EL}}

Is Death by Chocolate a restaurant? Bennigan's (a restaurant) have a donut by that name - but that's the only one I know. Just curious (very!) An in-depth description (decadence and all please.

{{It is a sit-down dessert restaurant, where the ONLY items on the menu are desserts featuring chocolate, sometimes exclusively chocolate. I feel that it is properly decadent. EL}}

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Headings by Sheryl Birkhead Illustrations by William Rotsler (paper version)

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

Gegenschein is published when I have enough material and time to do an issue. Comments should be sent to: [obsolete]

Eric Lindsay, 7 Nicoll Avenue, Ryde, NSW 2112 Australia. Telephone: BH, Mon-Thu (02) 330 2254 (Uni Technology, Sydney), AH, Thu and all day Fri, Sat, Sun, (Insulting messages on answering machine, if on, at) (047) 51 2258

Electronic Mail: eric at zen maths uts edu au ISSN #0310-9968

Send trades to Jean Weber, marked for both of us, since Jean keeps better mailing lists.

Copyright * 1994. 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.