Gegenschein 72 August 1995


Well, this issue is late, isn't it?

US Cavalry To The Rescue

The excesses of the advertising mind are strange to behold, but never stranger than when some marketeer decided I needed the world's finest military and adventure equipment, and sent me a US Cavalry catalog. I don't believe I've ever had an adventure that didn't involve sitting in an easy chair reading a book, so my need for bullet-proof vests or camouflage and battledress uniforms seems low. Indeed, I have a hard time imagining any reason for bothering to wear a uniform. A 144 page catalog is enough to really gross me out.

Not that it isn't fascinating, in the same way that some obviously bad movies are fascinating. A sort of "what idiocy will they think of next?" (Naturally all collectors are obviously idiots, only the objects they collect vary ... ask any non-fan who comments that you have a lot of books). Also, the catalog did answer the question of where some attendees at conventions selected their day to day clothes. However, for myself, I really can't see much use for an urban assault vest, nor could I see precisely how a tactical balaclava varied from any other balaclava. I could understand the function of the tactical shotgun accessories, but they were not the sort of thing I'd collect.

What I really want to know however, is why me? Just what makes them think I'm planning a budding career as an urban terrorist, uniformed or not?

I must admit to really liking one style of item, namely the wonderful "all in one" tools from Gerber and Leatherman. Jean also expressed an interest in the paintball guns, as a counter to cars that jump the lights at pedestrian crossings. Maybe we are urban terrorists after all.*


Jean and I have been on numerous trips of late, so many I haven't had time to write up my trip reports. Expect the next fanzine or two from me to consist mostly of trip reports. One indicator of just how frequent the travel has been is that I saw Star Trek, Generations while in Cincinnati on a previous trip, and was again in the USA before that particular film was released in Australia. However, I thought I'd best report our visit to Tasmania for Thylacon, the Australian National SF Convention. We had received numerous phone calls earlier in the year from former committee member Laura O'Brien, seeking convention hints and possibly reassurance, so we wanted to see how it worked out.*

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Tasmanian trip and Thylacon

Saturday 3rd June 1995

We took a week off work, and had a speedy taxi ride to the airport for the 9 a.m departure. The flight was on time, as was the connecting flight from Melbourne, so we reached Hobart at 12:35, replete with airline food, since they insisted on serving a meal on each leg of the flight. Not bad food either, albeit a little ice crunchy.

Hobart put on a beautiful day as we flew over the Derwent, with sunlit puffs of cloud. We made a fast passage through the airport, and were soon headed downtown, the interior of the Avis Charade rapidly becoming too warm for wearing a jacket, although I'd had numerous warnings about the winter climate in Tasmania.

We dropped our bags off at Hadley's, an older but renovated hotel in the heart of the city, recommended by Laura O'Brien, and set off to the nearby market in Salamanca Place. Many tempting items wavered before my eyes, but with some gentle prompting from Jean, I resisted all except the grapefruit chocolate.*

We were just starting to wonder whether we had missed the Panache, when Robin Johnson called to us from a nearby stall. He led us a few steps further on, beckoning with the large huon pine carving of a Tasmanian Tiger he had just obtained. His charming wife Alicia was already seated.

We were debating the quantity and brand of the wine to try when Bob and Margaret Riep arrived. Bob being the only one of us to have provided wine labels (he did the label photograph of a local wine) we prevailed upon him to decide. Meadowbank chardonnay, by the litre was the decision, and this came with large glasses. We were so impressed, we called for another litre over lunch, which with wine and desert and all came to under $15 each. I was already liking the place.*

We walked to Battery Point with Robin and Alicia to visit their large and crowded home. Robin has even more books than I do, and Alicia has excellent taste in paintings. The combination sure chews up wall space. I was impressed with the drawers of paperbacks Robin had under the slope of the upper walls. Excellent use of space. I appreciate such refinement, even if I never show any sign of doing the same.

Back at the hotel Mike O'Brien kindly phoned to welcome us to Hobart, and assured us that he would catch up with us at the convention. Alas, while we saw Mike, we didn't really get around to conversing all that much.*

Near seven we bundled up in warm clothes and set out on foot for North Hobart, to visit Bob and Margaret. The top end of Elizabeth Street was the Ligon Street of Hobart, full of a variety of restaurants and convenient eateries. Even the local post office had interesting plaques set in the footpath in front of it. Since we were a little unsure of the exact location of the house, it took us 45 minutes for the walk (the hills encountered didn't help).

Bob and Margaret greeted us with fine Tasmanian Freycinet and Ninth Island wines, and Tasmanian salmon, followed by a chicken dinner, and home made chocolate cake. It really brought back memories of many a pleasant visit with them, back in the days when they lived near me in the Blue Mountains.

The major difference was the appearance of their home, where their paintings were now tastefully displayed on most walls, and comfortable couches were plentiful. I've been most impressed with the way so many of my old friends have managed to set up their homes. I suppose, Bob now being interested in politics, that they have more visitors than I ever did, but I can't help thinking my place needs to trend more towards those I see elsewhere, and less towards Chateau St Vinnie, overlaid with dust.

Robin Johnson was also there for dinner, contributing a bottle of a sweet, almost dessert wine from Germany. I liked it a lot. As the evening progressed it seemed that everyone except Robin and I were falling asleep, so at 11 we called a taxi and headed back to the hotel.*

Sunday 4th June 1995

Jean was looking for breakfast, so I suggested we check Salamanca Place again, as I'd heard a mini-market was open there. We did find some snacks, and then noticed we were on the course of a fun run. It seemed thousands of (mostly) fit people were streaming past us. We wandered around the waterfront, gazing at yachts and other (unidentifiable) nautical things. I was astonished to see an old Sydney ferry, the North Head, sitting by the foreshore. It seems to be used as a floating restaurant as much as a ferry.

When we dropped the room keys at the hotel desk, they told us they were looking for the owners of cars parked in their car park, as several cars had been vandalised ... and our Rent An Avis was the worst. The (presumably expensive) read window had been smashed. No evidence of entry (not that we ever leave anything in the car), but it certainly wasn't suitable for touring any more. Jean phoned Avis while we waited for the Tasmanian police to take our statement ("we drove it from the airport to the hotel parking lot, at 2 p.m. yesterday, and didn't look at it again until the hotel told us the bad news").

This unfortunate incident slowed down our departure somewhat, since we had to collect another car from Avis. Even worse, we hadn't taken extra insurance, because we never expected vandals in Tasmania (having gotten away with that in all corners of the world). Jean was annoyed, although whether that was the car, or the effects of excessive wine on Saturday I can't say.

Jean drove south. Huon Valley shrouded in mist. Huonville, Franklin (no, not the infamous river beloved by tree huggers), via winding scenic seaside roads, until at Dover, or Esperance Bay, we stopped for a filling lunch of turkey and a variety of traditional vegetables at the Dover Hotel. I must have been hungry, as I finished mine before Jean finished hers. We continued on, to Lune River, Ida Bay, and back to Southport, the combination being about as far that direction we could manage without a boat. I must admit to enjoying the beautiful scenery, without having any particular items in mind.

Robin had recommended Mures, a moderate walk away from the hotel, on the waterfront, for Tasmanian salmon for dinner, when we returned to Hobart. Their upstairs dining room was superb, albeit not exactly cheap, with wonderful service.

Monday 5th June 1995

Jean wandered out to seek breakfast. I wandered out to seek film. Our plans for an early departure were disrupted when we found Jean's reading glasses were broken. Despite the best efforts of the local optical place, repairs could not be made. We finally left at 10:20, figuring that sticky tape could be bought anyplace. Well, maybe driving across Tasmania was the wrong place to start.

We stopped at Hamilton for steak and bacon pies, being unsure how many more towns we would find on the way to Straham. The answer was not many. This turned out to be an excellent choice, as the home cooking store had been winning awards for their pies.

We followed a twisty winding road through majestic strands of greenery, with the only excitement being a place where a car had left the road. A little later we spotted a rushing tow truck, far from anyplace.

Queenstown was like any other small mining town at the bottom of an open cut mine. Five kilometres of treacherous roads overlooking a savaged landscape. We were later told that the locals rush out to pull up any tree that appears, so they can remain a prime example of the perils of open cut mining. I can sort of believe that.

Strahan was a pleasant tourist oriented town on the Macquarie Harbour, some 20 miles from the mouth of the Gordon, with an old fashioned pub offering a variety of fish meals, which we sampled for dinner. We were staying at the Gordon Gateway chalet, some kilometre of so across the water from Strahan, which offered a fine view of the town.

Tuesday 6th June 1995

There was a short delay this morning while we scraped ice from all glass surfaces of the car, a peril we do not encounter normally at home. Our vessel for the Gordon River cruise was the James Kelly II, broad of beam, and looking every inch the sort of a vessel a tourist could enjoy ... the bar and snack shop was the most prominent feature. I huddled next to the heaters.

The journey along Macquarie Harbour takes a fair while, as the Gordon is about 20 miles away along the second largest harbour in Australia, and Strahan is not far from Hell's Gates, the harbour entrance. Even at 44 klicks an hour, it takes a while for the long cruise.

Despite being a long, narrow harbour, we were told that the weather could be so extreme that waves up to 4 metres could occur. This was not a problem, as we had a beautiful fine (albeit cold) day for our cruise. Indeed, some spots on the Gordon were so smooth that the reflections of the shore in the water were almost perfect, and I used up a lot of film trying to capture the scenes.

At the end of the trip we took the short walking trail at Heritage Landing, in the National Park. An astonishing variety of moss, fungus, and things that appear to like 100 inches of rainfall a year abounded. Jean appeared to have great fun identifying a variety of species. Needless to say, we took great care to ensure we were back well before the boat departed, as the next boat was the next day!

During the return journey, they took us through Hell's Gates, the narrow harbour entrance, into the Southern Ocean. A gigantic breakwater had once been constructed outside, but now even the railway tracks on which the rocks had been delivered were twisted ruins, tribute to the fury of the ocean.

Unfortunately, it was turning cloudy, a poor sign for the remainder of our journey, as we set off inland for Cradle Mountain, where we spent the night at the PandO resort. We battled with a recalcitrant pile of damp firewood, before attending the bar for a decent dinner, and watching the locals possums eat apples (not quite in the bar).

Wednesday 7th June 1995

Cradle Mountain provides many walks, alas, most were not suited to rainy weather. We circumnavigated Dove Lake despite this, and sometimes could even see it through the rain. Good weather would improve day-time entertainment wonderfully. We dined that evening on venison at the fancy PandO restaurant, at ruinous expense, but service and food was impressive, and we wanted to experience it once.

Thursday 8th June 1995

Cradle Mountain to Hobart, pretty much non-stop, since the weather was bad everywhere we looked.

Friday 10th June 1995 Thylacon

First panel was 30 minutes late. Robin says forget the program. That is traditional fannish advice, but I didn't expect a con chair to admit it so early. Actually, most of the panels I attended after that did start on time. Indeed, this small (100 person) convention worked exceedingly well for those of us who prefer to socialise. I also gathered that many local first time attendees enjoyed the panels. Cary Lenehan lamented not getting as many game players as he had hoped, but the room seemed to me to be well attended.*

GoHs introduced, on time, at the opening at 7:30 p.m. Grant Stone seemed in fine form, and more relaxed than when I've seen him in Perth. It seems more and more a good idea to start the panels, as was done here, some considerable time prior to the official opening.*

Lots of talk in the comfortable well patronised bar, until 2:15 a.m.

Saturday 11th June 1995

We visited the Salamanca Market at 10 a.m. I got paranoid about the crowds, and headed back to the hotel and a calming book.

Excellent and unfortunately convincing GoH speech by Kim Stanley Robinson, on the sustainable carrying capacity of the earth.*

Keith Curtis raised lots of money at the auction. There were some doubts about who was doing the fan auction, but nothing was made of this.

Favourite scene. Sean McMullen singing without a supper at 2 a.m. in the bar.

Sunday 12th June 1995

Missed the 7 minute Business Session at 9 a.m. however Stephen Boucher managed to let debate flow for whole seconds. Luckily others turned aside the Terry Frost push for a Hobart new fan bid for 1997, to allow them to gain experience with a local con first. This seems a nice compromise, as new enthusiasm does tend to wain when confronted by the reality of running a con.

The panel on new media was librarians Chris Nelson and Pauline Dickinson, radio star academic Grant Stone, and encyclopaedist Peter Nicholls. I mention it because I moderated it (not all that well, I fear, as my anarchistic tendencies reduce my impulse to control the audience). Despite a slow start, we ended up with enthusiastic audience participation, and fans continuing to talk in the foyer later.

Sat in on a talk in the hotel foyer with Sean McMullen, Kim Stanley Robinson, Peter Nicholls, Robin Johnson, etc. Many of these foyer and bar conventions were highlights of the con. It shows that a good hotel layout will assist almost any con at being enjoyable.

The creating worlds panel is to be written up and published in a fanzine, or so says Cary.

Amusing incident when the bar alarms when the staff incautiously entered the area. Lucky it wasn't the fans.

Excellent three course buffet banquet, included venison and four other meats. I was totally stuffed by the end. It was one of the few con banquets that have had really decent food. It was at this event that Pat and Roger Sims, DUFF delegates, gave their speeches. Their original times had been unfortunately placed, but luckily the con committee responded quickly and altered them.

Tuesday 14th June 1995

Taxi to airport with Pat and Roger Sims, where we all flew to Sydney via Melbourne. They had impressive pieces of luggage (previous DUFF people, Dick and Leah Smith also impressed me with their giant suitcase). Jean then took the Sims home by taxi while I headed off to work. I seem to recall a relaxing evening at home, talking about old times.

Wednesday 15th June 1995

Jean and I both had to cope with our respective work crisis, so Pat and Roger went off to the zoo (using tickets supplied by jan howard finder, so the fannish connections continue). After sightseeing pat and Roger dropped in to my office.

Gerald Smith and Womble kindly arranged a party for Pat and Roger, so we taxied there. Blair Ramage, Margaret Hilliyard, Lewis Morley, Marilyn Pride, and Graham Stone were the other attendees. This was pretty low key, since midweek is a bad time for catching fans in Sydney, but at least there was some contact between the two fandoms.**

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Fred Patten visits

Fred Patten noted he was visiting Australia as a guest speaker at The Life of Illusion, post world war II animation in the USA and Japan. I passed the world round at the Futurian Society meeting, and at Gerald Smith's birthday party, and several people commented on knowing of the event. Nick Stathopoulos seemed to know lots about it.

Fred sent a copy of Yarf, the journal of applied anthropomorhics, PO Box 1299, Cupertino, Ca 95015-1299 USA. Also his own work from Yarf, An Anthropomorphic Bibliography, a well produced 34 page list and description of various novels and stories with humanised animals (and vice versa). I guess that area is bigger than I ever realised ... I'd somehow associated it with Taral and Craig Hilton, and never really got round to the idea that there was an enthusiastic audience. I suppose I just don't watch enough Saturday morning children's cartoons on TV.

Thanks to Nick Stathopoulos, Jean and I had word of a Thursday meeting after the traditional scan of Galaxy bookshop. As the traditional cafe had closed (I didn't know that!), the meeting place was Brumbies, on George Street near Bathurst Street, a cafe in a trendy modern building on the corner.

Blair Ramage, Gerald Smith and Womble were partaking of the light consumables, and a little later Nick and Fred appeared. Jean didn't turn up, which didn't surprise me. Fred said the conference was far, far more academic than he expected. I surmised that was the only way they could get sponsorship. I suggested that we all follow Womble to the restaurant, as she produced her red tipped cane. Gerald and Womble, arm in arm, lead us to a very nice restaurant near Sussex Street, down towards Darling Harbour. One feature was an unending supply of damper bread.

Unfortunately Fred inhaled breadcrumps, and started choking. Nick rapidly demonstrated that he knew first aid, and Fred recovered before the main meal arrived. I thought I'd been transferred back to the USA, considering the quantity, however I doubt kangaroo meat would have been available as readily over there (and no, I didn't have it ... Jean and I consider it appropriate for the cat).

Fred gave me a copy of a new book from his company, a collection of horror stories, mostly involving food (seems appropriate, considering what happened). I was most taken by the ants on the end papers, especially when Nick claimed they formed one of those three dimensional pictures so popular today. The ant motif went through the book, and made for an interesting diversion as you considered their actions continuing from page to page.*

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New Books

There have been an amazing number of new books out in the past few years by Australian authors, often from Australian publishers. I mention below only a few I can recall.

Challenging the always impressive (if not always to my taste) George Turner, Greg Egan has turned in some very nice work. The most recent novel seems to be Permutation City, a virtual reality novel I should review, however I find myself totally incapable of doing justice either to the novel, or to my doubts about just where the author has flim-flamed his way out of trouble. My recommendation - buy whatever Greg Egan writes, and see for yourself.

Paul Collins, long time publisher of Australian science fiction, has placed Metaworlds, best Australian science fiction, with Pan. I wonder why the same names always appear on the stories. Good names however.

Sean Williams, who recently placed third in a Writers of the Future competition has a short collection of novelettes from MirrorDanse. Incidentally, MirrorDanse are starting to get a nice range of short books into the stores ... I noticed one containing two Terry Dowling stories the other day in Galaxy.

Beverley MacDonald, a fantasy author whose work I haven't seen before has The Madigal, from Pan, who seem very active in Australian sf at the moment.

Gillian Rubinstein's Galax-Arena is aimed at young adults, and challenges perceptions of the world, and any given way of life. I found the dialect difficult so I admit to skimming, especially as some of the plot was obvious, but this still should hold the interest and provoke the intended audience. Puffin publish it, 138 pages, at A$9.95.

Lucy Sussex has compiled two collections of 9 science fiction stories for young readers published by Omnibus Books. These are The Patternmaker and The Lottery. Both read very well, and if buying them for gifts, you should certainly read the first for enjoyment. They are a little over 160 pages. I couldn't see a price, and I note with interest they had Australia Council funding assistance.

Deersnake is a children's novel by Lucy Sussex, from Hodder and Stoughton's Starlight imprint, just out recently.

Anderson, Kevin J, Champions of the Force

Bantam Spectra (Transworld), Nov 1994, 322pp, US$5.99 A$10.95

Third volume in the Star Wars Jedi Academy trilogy. Brings the strings of the plot together, and is fast paced, so it should please Star Wars enthusiasts.

Anderson, Poul, Harvest of Stars

Tor, July 1994, 531pp, US$5.99

Fast paced SciFi adventure, as a pilot adventurer from a space industrial consortium tries to recover and rescue the download of the founder of that enterprise from a totalitarian earth. Lots of scifi ideas and futuristic changes, with a strong (albeit not totally believable) story line. It was fun.*

Armstrong, Michael, The Hidden War

TSR, Nov 1994, 250pp, US$4.95

The Beat(nik) asteroid is destroyed (or perhaps escaped into Ur space), and defiant fighter pilot Krim captured and jailed. He is eventually released into an Earth where all wear a synthetic skin that nourishes and protects them, a utopia free from want. However there is an unknown enemy in the depths of space, and pilots are needed to explore. A novel from a games company, and very much a games adventure. Like many games, not real logical.*

Barnes, John, Mother of Storms

Tor, May 1995, 560pp, US$5.99

Sprawling blockbuster style multi character novel of the effects on Earth 40 years hence of the largest storm ever, a superhurricane that spawns dozens of hurricanes. I'm not 100% convinced by how Barnes starts his storm, but given that, his descriptions are gripping. A second plotline involves the interaction of a few humans with the world computer network, and the generation of artificial intelligence. A good read, but not nearly as subtle in effect as his A Million Open Doors.

Baxter, Stephen, Anti-Ice

Harper-Collins, 1994, 280pp, A$11.95

Jules Verne, move over. I think Baxter has found his niche. 19th Century steam punk. Sir Josiah Traveller is the greatest engineer of the continually expanding British empire, and his anti-ice explosives and machinery have made Britain supreme. However there are still spies and still saboteurs, and accidents still happen. Even the gigantic land cruiser is not immune, and escape in Sir Josiah's anti-ice rocket takes the participants even further away than any of them imagined. Great stuff, not however to be taken all that seriously.

Bear, Greg, Moving Mars

Tor, Dec 1994, 500pp, US$5.99

Introduces the protagonists via their participation in a disorganised student revolution, in a time of turmoil on Mars. One gradually becomes more and more involved in politics, and thus increasingly concerned with protecting the small population of Mars from the demands of the much larger Earth. The other seeks out the secrets of the universe, amid fears that the result may be a fearsome weapon. The book covers their life, and what they have to do to resist the larger population of Earth. A detailed picture of a different society, with economic and political factors that ensure conflict, but do not admit to the insanity of war. Worthy Hugo nominee, however like most modern physics, it trends towards fantasy by the end.*

Benford, Greg, Matter's End

Bantam, 1994, 294pp, US$5.99

Twenty one short stories, from a very wide range of dates. While I didn't always enjoy them, I remain impressed by the range of sf that Benford handles well, and that so much of it really is science fiction, rather than anything but.

Blake, Sterling, Chiller

Bantam, Oct 1994, 658pp, US$5.99

Greg Benford (?) writing of a religious fanatic serial killer trying to eliminate anyone who works on cryogenic suspension. Fast paced, well plotted thriller, lots of plot twists, marginal sf interest, despite the last of it being set in the future. Pretty good for non-stop trans-Pacific flights (I know).

Bova, Ben, The Exiles Trilogy

Baen, Nov 1994, 489pp, US5.99

Three linked juvenile novellas. Genetic scientists are to be exiled because it can be predicted their work will destabilise society. A benevolent government puts them on a space station. Some eventually argue for converting it to a generation ship, to seek another planet. Strife and conflict for various reasons. The final generation grow up ignorant of their purpose. The original book titles from the 1970's were Exiled from Earth, Flight of Exiles, and End of Exile. This really is not Bova's best work, but I've been getting desperate for science fiction rather than fantasy crap.

Branagh, Kenneth, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Pan, 1994, 191pp, *8.99

Large format paperback of the making of the umpteenth (well, actually, they do list all the other versions) remake of the Frankenstein story. Lots of photos from the recently released film. If the producer is to be believed (given my exceedingly limited experience of films, I find that difficult) they tried to follow the original more closely. Certainly reads well. If you are into horror films, this book would be a good one for your collection.

Clarke, Arthur C, The Hammer of God

Bantam, Nov 1994, 240pp, US$5.99

2110, and Goliath must intercept and destroy a meteor, which would otherwise endanger earth. Typical Clarke story, good science, calm and slow to anger characters taking hard decisions in a measured way. Some religious fanatics causing problems. Measured prose, with little overt action. Apart from the Rama books, I'm still willing to buy any Clarke novel.

Egan, Greg, Permutation City

Millenium, 1994, 309pp, *8.99

Just what is real in this high tech novel? It sometimes seems that your reality is an infinite regress. While I'm not convinced by the science, Greg Egan deals seriously with worthwhile philosophical questions, without forgetting that a novel has to have a plot, and continue to interest the audience. He is certainly on my "must buy" list. Summarise it? You have to be kidding. It managed to provoke a half hour argument about where it was going at the Sydney Futurian Society, so I count that as a good sign.

Feintuch, David, Midshipman's Hope

Warner, Nov 1994, 391pp, US$5.50

First in a new series of military space science fiction, very much in the Hornblower tradition. The author has postulated that two centuries hence, children ship as trainees on military vessels, and that their education is poor. Everything has to be done by The Book. The youthful hero saves the ship, working from The Book. I found the entire Napoleonic flavour of the book, and the fascist command structure, so distasteful I won't try any more in the series. David Drake and David Gerrold give favourable blurbs to it (I don't buy their books either).

Fleischer, Leonore, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Pan, 1994, 313pp, A$12.95

With stills from the film, based on the film script ... I don't suppose the done thing, for a film that goes back to the original author, is to reprint the original? Still, the book does appear closer than most film versions.

Gear, W. Michael and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, People of the Sea

Forge, Nov 1994, 425pp, A$10.95 PB

A fantasy/anthroprological novel of prehistoric North America, eleven thousand years ago, sequel to People of the River.

Gould, Steven, Jumper

Tor, Oct 1993, 344pp, US$4.99

Wonderful empathic first person treatment of teenager with the ability to teleport. His escape from an unhappy family life, finding a place in the world, life and love, and the perils of government intervention. While the sf element is not new, the treatment is excellent, especially of the revenge elements. Give it to some teenager, or any fan who enjoyed Slan.

Grimes, Lee, Dinosaur Nexus

AvoNova, Oct 1994, 215pp, US$4.99

A human exploration team travels back in time to find why the dinosaurs died out. They meet a race of time travelling dinosaurs looking for their own Prime Mother. However only one race can exist in the future. Which is it to be? And what it the crucial event that gives one ascendency over the Earth? Cute novel, but I have to rate the similar one by Sawyer somewhat higher.

Harrison, Harry, The Hammer and the Cross

Tor, Nov 1994, 470pp, US$5.99

Listed as fantasy, which I guess is as good a category as possible for this novel set in 865 A.D. The bastard son of a Norse raider evades slavery by joining a Norse raid that is likely to take over all of the British Isles. Threatened by berserker leaders, Shef is forced into becoming a leader himself, and equally is forced to develop siege weapons better than those of the Romans. A brutal Christian tyranny is challenged by a more hopeful and humanistic set of Norse gods.

This is a fine tale, even if many readers will be caught up mainly by the blood, guts, torture and mayhem on copious display.*

Hill, Douglas, The Lightless Dome

Pan, Nov 1994, 304pp, A$12.95

Book 1 in The Apotheosis Trilogy fantasy is the 50th book from an author who usually specialises in fantasy and sf for children (not that I've seen any of them). I mentioned this in Geg 70, and it is the usual hero out of our time, with a magic sword, fighting to save a kingdom from an evil magician. Some satire of the genre, much more gentle than Mary.

Hill, Douglas, The Leafless Forest

Pan, Nov 1994, 294pp, A$19.95 TPB

Book 2 in The Apotheosis Trilogy fantasy. The quest continues (sigh).

Ing, Dean, Butcher Bird

Tor, Nov 1994, 423pp, US$5.99

Sequel to the tecnho-thriller The Ransome of Black Stealth One. Someone is killing politically unpopular Mid-Eastern politicians in the open in a totally undetectable manner. Now that someone has moved to the Americas, and is heading north. Who are the targets, what is the weapon. Lots of really neat high tech aircraft speculation, and a decent thriller story as well. Not really science fiction, but I like Ing's stories of high technology.

Jay, Shannah, Lands of Nowhere

Pan, Feb 1993, 494pp, A$12.95

Book two of The Chronicles of Tenebrak, with the usual non-technological society of quest type novels. Australian author.*

Lawrence, JA, Mudd's Enterprise

Bantam, Feb 1995, 212pp, A$9.95

Previously published as Mudd's Angels, in 1977, set on Kirk's Enterprise, as scheming entrepreneur Harry Mudd plots to take over the Enterprise and the galaxy. I like a lad with ambition. I gather this covers the episodes Mudd's Women and I, Mudd, together with a concluding section The Business, as usual, During Altercations, done purely for this book.

MacDonald, Beverley, The Madigal

Pan, Dec 1994, 410pp, A$12.95

Fantasy from new Australian author. The Madigal has slept in her tower for forty years, watched over by her Keeper, but the city she created six centuries ago has fallen onto evil days, with ice bears raiding, and a scheming Crown Prince. What can the Madigal do when she awakens? I didn't really care by then.

McAllister, P.K. (Paula King), The Cloudships of Orion: Siduri's Net

RoC, Nov 1994, 282pp, US$4.99

Harvesting comet dust is hard on ships, and failing to bring in sufficient minerals leaves your ship bankrupt and seized. Migratory Gypsies such as Pov need to balance their loyalty to their ship and work, with their tradition bound families on board. Rich cultural clashes in a frontier society among the stars in this science fiction novel.

McCaffrey, Anne, The Chronicles of Pern

Corgi, Feb 1995, 284pp, A$11.95

Five stories of the early days on Pern, for compleatists. Trade paperback was mentioned in the previous issue.

McCaffrey, Anne, The Dolphins of Pern

Bantam, Nov 1994, 300pp, A$29.95hc

Story of pet dolphins, newly rediscovered as part of the two thousand year old introduced fauna of Pern. Not bad, but basically for completists.

McCaffrey, Anne and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Powers That Be

Corgi (Transworld), Dec 1994, 351pp, A$11.95

Petaybee is a strange world, which does not respond willingly to the corporate invasion. On medical discharge, Major Yana Maddock is also charged with infiltrating Petaybee society to find out about anomalies. Much better than the second book in the same series, but that isn't saying much at all.

McCarthy, Will, Flies From The Amber

ROC, April 1995, 299pp, A$10.95 US$4.99

Second hard science fiction novel by this author. A mining expedition on the struggling colony world of Unua, 40 light years from Earth, have discovered an unusual, indeed alien, mineral. When the scientific expedition from Earth finally arrives, they discover an alien artifact stranger than they can imagine. A fine hard sf novel from an interesting new author.

Moon, Elizabeth, Sporting Chance

Baen, Sept 1994, 383pp, US$5.99

Entertaining SF adventure, independent sequel to Hunting Party, brings another set of crisis upon the same characters. The Prince is getting dumber and dumber, and no-one in the royal family appears to care. Meanwhile, members of the crew of Lady Cecilia's space yacht are falling victim to attack. Captain Heris Serano must solve the mysteries, before she becomes a victim. Nicely plotted, it should appeal to anyone who enjoys the work of David Weber. No space battles.

Niven, Pournelle, Flynn, Fallen Angels

Pan, Feb 1995, 394pp, $11.95

2073, ice age time, and a not very efficient repressive US government blames it on science and technology. Astronauts survive in an orbiting station, their craft dipping into atmosphere to collect volatiles. When some are shot down, which subversive organisation can put together a spontaneous rescue? Science fiction fandom.

OK, so this isn't very serious. You can have a lot of fun spotting names and characters however.

Pohl, Frederik, The World at the End of Time

DelRey, June 1991, 407pp, US$5.99

When a godlike being who plays with suns decides to move your corner of the galaxy elsewhere at near light speed, your newly settled planet has no choice but to go along. Besides, with several perfectly stable suns going nova, the neighbourhood wasn't healthy.

Viktor was determined to find out what was happening, but between falling afoul of social changes, and getting frozen down, it looked like even several thousand years wouldn't be time enough to discover the answers. Pohl does his usual superb job of social and scientific extrapolation, as part of a rattling good hard science fiction adventure that takes you to the end of the universe, the end of time, and the end of a god. These days I have to rate Fred Pohl as the very best of the old guard sf authors.

Richards, Tony, Night Feast

Pan, 3 March 1995, 537pp, A$12.95

Multiple related horror stories of ancient god-vampires stalking victims through the 20th Century. Seemed well written, if you like that sort of stuff.

Rickman, Phil, The Man in the Moss

Pan, Dec 1994, 596pp, A$12.95

Blurbed as supernatural, and I was also sent the hardcover (mentioned in Geg 71). Archeologists remove the Man in the Moss for study, but terror stalks the isolated village of Bridelow from its Celtic past afterwards.

Robinson, Kim Stanley, Green Mars

Harper-Collins, 1994, 782pp, A$12.95

Sequel to Hugo winning Red Mars. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, and based on the first novel, doubt I can do it justice.**

Sawyer, Robert J, End of an Era

Ace, Nov 1994, 222pp, US$4.99

A cheapskate (how typical) University experiment sends two academic rivals in paleontology to the past to discover what happened to the dinosaurs. So how come some of the dinosaurs are acting as if they were trained? How come their computer diary records events they don't recall? Even the gravity is wrong. Wonderfully informed dinosaur background, and a nicely complex set of timelines and storylines. I enjoyed it, however I've always enjoyed Sawyer's novels.

Sheffield, Charles, Godspeed

Tor, Nov 1994, 352pp, US$4.99

Robert Louis Stephenson's Treasure Island, in space.

Shillitoe, Tony, The Last Wizard

Pan, 3 March 1995, 436pp, A$12.95

Fantasy (with flying dragons - what a surprise) from an Australian author whose previous work was The Andrakis Trilogy (which was at least restricted to three volumes). Lots of leading between the lines.

Spinrad, Norman, Deux X

Bantam, Jan 1993, 177pp, US$3.99

What does it profit you to have your soul encased in silicon, if you can't be sure you have one. Well done.

Star Wars, Ambush at Corellia, Roger McBride Allen

Transworld, April 1995, 308pp, A$10.95 US$5.99

Han Solo returns to his home planet for a trade summit, only to find the New republic intelligence services are running some sort of plan involving Leia and the children. Meanwhile, a civil war seems likely on the five planets of his home sector, between three formally co-operative races. Book 1 of 3. Well written adventure for Star wars enthusiasts only.

Stith, John E, Manhattan Transfer

Tor, Oct 1994, 381pp, US$4.99

Great fun (entirely apart from the Dos Pasos title). Aliens scoop up all of Manhattan into their spacecraft, where it is set down isolated from a variety of obviously alien cities in a vast plain. Why have they been kidnapped, what do the aliens want, and what has happened on Earth? A fine SF adventure novel, with neat plot twists and action. Not what you could call philosophical, but it has the right stuff for action fans.

Turtledove, Harry, World War: In the Balance

New English Library (Hodder Headline), Jan 1995, 656pp, A$14.95

The aliens invade, with starships and jet fighters, powerful tanks, and automatic weapons. However the medieval knights they expected are long gone. In their place are all the fighting forces of World War Two. The aliens have superior weapons, and crush the opposition humans whenever they meet, however the aliens are far from home, and the next sector of their fleet is twenty years behind them. And the humans still have considerable industrial capacity, and weight of numbers. A fine piece of alternate history. I look forward to the next volume, but really wish it had been clear that the story was not complete.

Tyers, Kathy, Star wars - The Truce at Bakura

Bantam (Transworld), Jan 1995, 341pp, $10.95

Set just after the destruction of the second Death Star and death of Darth Vader and the Emperor, this has the usual motley crew try to avert an truly alien invasion of a remote world. Pretty traditional 1930s SF, with good continuity with the Star Wars universe (apparently enforced by the Lucasfilm contracts). I imagine it will sell well, but this sort of thing is really a travesty of what the best of sf can do, despite the skillful work of the author. The commercial world strikes back.

Warrington, Freda, Sorrow's Light

Pan, Dec 1994, 257p, A$12.95

Fantasy adventure. Iolithie, accidental bride to Prince Tykavn, finds his religious rituals threaten to destroy his sanity. Help may be available, but only across the Stolen lands, populated by the horrors of The Unseen demon worshippers. Good writer of vampire novels, if that is your taste.

Weber, David, Field of Dishonour

Baen, Oct 1994, 367pp, US$5.99

Fourth in the Honor Harrington series, which should appeal greatly to anyone who enjoyed Horatio Hornblower. Success in battle, despite the cowardice of a highly placed aristocrat, brings more problems. Domestic political problems protect Honor's enemy from the full consequences of his cowardice, and after the court martial he is more determined than ever to attack Honor, by whatever means. Her naval knowledge and skills are not what is needed in the situation in which she finds herself, where the only possible actions lead to death or dishonour. Military enthusiasts should note that space battles are not included.

Weber, David and Steve White, Insurrection

Baen, Nov 1990, 408pp, US$4.99

First Weber novel I'd heard of, based on a RPG, so I mention it in passing. Seemed pretty reasonable, if you like battles, and I was very impressed with later novels.

Zahn, Timothy, Conquerors' Pride

Bantam, Jan 1995, 389pp, A$11.95

The handful of alien ships destroy a Peacekeeper task force with astonishing ease. A wealthy freightline owner and former member of Parliament is convinced his son survived the slaughter, and his other sons and daughter, and convenient ex-military helpers, all take off to save the day, regardless of laws broken and fighter ships stolen. Lots of not real believable action, and at the end of it all, you discover it is the first in a series. Also, I think I've seen parts of it before, but can't locate where. Mostly for series action fans. If you enjoyed Zahn's Star Wars novels, you should enjoy this.

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The locs should continue, however I've misplaced all my pieces of paper somewhere. Maybe I'll refind them by next issue.

Teddy Harvia

701 Regency Dr Hurst TX 76054-2307 USA

I used a wrist-watch alarm for a while but gave up on it because it could not handle the concept of sleeping in on weekends. {{Yes, serious fault that. EL}}

While watching Terminator, my daughter asked me what the most sophisticated computer in existence was. My answer that it was the human brain did not satisfy her. The golden age of science will not arrive until the flexibility of biological thought gains access to infallible mechanical memory. No single entity can match the persistence of life as a whole.

Roy Lavender

2507 East 17th Street Long Beach CA 90804 USA 8 June 1994

Renovations. [a customer's] representative checked our security and declared we must upgrade. He underscored this by using a broad felt tip pen to draw a line across the floor plan, "You need a Class II wall across here."

Someone signed a paper and the floor plan went to the facilities people. The materials were on order before we managed to get the project stopped. We did this by going to the brass on the floors above us and pointing out that the new wall would run through the elevator shafts.

Don't get carried away with CDs. Wait for the gigabyte memories in one chip to come down in price.

5 July 1994

Your Douglas DC-X will almost certainly have a follow on. The current Aerospace America has an article evaluating SSTO rockets, with the conclusion that they are practical for the immediate future.


Sheryl Birkhead sends some computer art, and followed it with a Xmas card.

Ron Clarke sends the latest details of the new Sydney Futurian society meetings.

Al Fitzpatrick sends his annual letter, reporting his year, and their liking for Walt Disney world.

Mike Glicksohn sent a postcard re Midwestcon.

Roy Lavender sends me a three dollar bill from The Disgruntled States of America. Later a Xmas card and summary of his year ... why don't I ever get that organised?

Adrienne Losin sends a Xmas card saying the heat Outback is good for her bad back.

Dick and Nicki Lynch send a Xmas card, and later email of their disastrous house fire that sees them out of their home for months.

NESFA say their address is now PO Box 809, Framingham MA 01701-0203

Bruce Pelz sends a poctsarcd "I told the Loscon 21 Committee that making Robbie Cantor Fan Guest of honor in hope she'd keep her nose (and other parts) out of the rest of the con-running was futile! I TOLD them and I T*O*L*D them! Serves them right ..." He also sent a tripe report from Egypt.

Tom Sadler sends an alternate cover to his zine The Reluctant Fanus. Now that is dedication.

DUFF candidate Lucy Schmeidler sends a postcard from Contradiction, saying she talked with dinosaur author Robert Sawyer, and attended the Niagara Falls in 1998 bid party.

Graham Stone provided copies of Australian Science Fiction Books 1994, listing Australian SF in print. This 28 page compilation costs $5 from Australian Science Fiction Association, GPO Box 4440, Sydney 2001.

Laurraine Tutihasi sends photos of Jean and I at Westercon.

Todd Ulbrich, 1870 Northwest Blvd #E, Columbus Oh 43212 USA asks for fanzines.

Walter Jon Williams has moved to 16 James Sanchez Lane, Belen, NM 87002 (505)8644391 GEnie WALTERJON.W Internet WALTERJON.W at genie geis com

Wynne Whiteford sends a nice Xmas card ... what I was hoping for was another novel.

Laurie Yates (who sent the Bill Kunkle cartoons used previously) says her fanzine Doodlebug is up to #3. But when I saw her in Las Vegas, she seemed real busy with paid work.

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Headings by Sheryl Birkhead (original paper version)

Illustrations by William Rotsler (original 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 Eric Lindsay: [obsolete]

ISSN #0310-9968

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

Copyright * 1995. 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.