Gegenschein 88 July 2000


Jean and I are standing for GUFF, to represent Australian fandom at conventions and fannish events in the U.K. in 2001. Although we have stood for fan funds before, it has been as part of the "official opposition", while we urged you to vote for others (often someone we had nominated). However this time we are urging you to vote for us. We also urge anyone who can contribute to GUFF (or any of the fan funds) to do so, regardless of their voting intentions.

We figure that, now we are sort of retired, it is the right time to put ourselves forward to administer a fan fund, despite the disadvantage of now living a long way from fannish centers in Australia. If we were to win, this would be Jean's first visit to the U.K. I visited the U.K. once, in 1976, so I imagine the fan scene is ... well ... somewhat different now.

Although we each have a number of U.K. fans on our mailing lists, I'm sure we are not in contact with nearly as many fans as we should be. If you can suggest fans who might like a copy of our fanzines, either by email, via the web, or as real physical bits of paper, please pass along our contact details, or let us know an address for them. I've done a few notes below as an introduction to us for new readers.

Since we almost invariably report on our travels in our fanzines, I think we can promise that we will do a trip report. Having an incentive to make it more detailed, we may even take better notes than is usually the case. I wouldn't count on better writing, but it isn't impossible.

Jean and I moved to the tropics in North Queensland a couple of years ago, as people do when they retire, to a small book crammed unit at the Whitsunday Terraces Resort in Airlie Beach, overlooking the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. We had visited here several times before over several decades, as tourists, and with friends.

The Queensland Tourist Bureau said "Beautiful one day, perfect the next", but then there was La Nina or whatever, and the cyclones now persist later into the (longer) wet season. So here it is, the end of April, and after a week of beautiful clear weather, the rain has returned. I don't expect to put up with rain here. And it is cold too. Down to 25 degrees C. I'll have to find something other than a T shirt and shorts to wear if this continues. And that assumes I have any heavier clothes anywhere here.

Airlie Beach is a tiny tourist town, with a main street just two blocks long. Lots of travel places, booking European backpackers onto the boats for three day reef diving trips. There are about eleven bars in town, and about ten internet cafes, plus lots of cafes and several decent restaurants. Bookshops there are not, although four places have a few books, two of the places being New Age crystal pyramid type shops. Sigh. Not my style of book. If we need to escape from here for some travel in Australia, we should be able to use the motor home.

I'm into gadgets, pretty much any type of superfluous technology gadget. I don't know a real lot about them, and sometimes I think they really do work by magic, but I like gadgets. At least when I'm not questioning their ancestry and berating them for not functioning the way it says in the manual (yes, I even read tech manuals). Apart from the obsolete computers (only five of them now, down from a peak of around fourteen), two of them hand built DIY 68000 systems, there are three Psion organisers and a DOS palmtop here. Although you don't need them when you have a single workroom, the lights are connected to X10 power line controllers, and a computer timer, and I'll extend that Real Soon Now.

Right now I'm sealing some solar cells on Perspex with clear gel glue (I mentioned it is raining, didn't I?), and have just built a little 24 volt switchmode solar battery regulator to trickle charge the motor home starter batteries. As a result there are meters and bits of wire all over the floor. Next project will probably be a single channel cardiogram front end, with the readings fed into a computer for display. Since my heart attack, I've had a bit more interest in medical technology, even if I don't know how they ever pull the signals out of the noise.

I was going to write that I don't spend much time at the bar here, but Jean would dispute that. I only go to outdoor bars (of which there are a lot here). The smoke level inside a typical bar is far too high for me to manage. I seem to get more and more allergic to tobacco smoke the older I get, although it may be that with so few public places in Australia allowing smoking, I'm just not exposed as much now, and am not used to it. I keep hearing about U.K. fans and their local pub, so I hope this isn't a problem. Speaking of pubs ...

Liquid Lunch

For the past several months, Bill Sharpe's construction crew have been working to build Water's Edge, a new resort down towards the post office. On the Thursday before Easter, we stood on the sidewalk and watched a large fork lift head out from the hotel area, and turn off the main street and head up the street towards the construction site. Carried on on the fork lift was a remarkable collection of cases of beer. The only thing we could think was this was the liquid lunch for the workers before the Easter holiday weekend!

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Potlatch and Corflu

Thursday 17 February 2000

Our trip started with a Proserpine to Brisbane flight, staying overnight since we can't reach Sydney in time for the overseas flight direct from Proserpine. At Brisbane airport, I sight a pink vending machine dispensing Barbie Dolls! Nothing else on the trip croggles me like this. Brisbane motels are considerably cheaper than Sydney, and the stop doesn't count as a stopover on our international ticket, so it is a little more convenient than Sydney.

We took advantage of our overnight stay to check out the shopping experience at the mall nearest the airport, now that we feel like country bumpkins. We also ate dinner at Sizzlers, since country towns and salads don't mix well.

Friday 18 February 2000

Jean bluffed us into the business class check in, although we had not been able to get a business class seat to Sydney. We stopped in at the Sydney Duty Free store, where I bought two bottles of Bundaburg OP Rum, which had increased in price yet again to an astonishing $24.95 each.

Our international flight was business class, thanks to frequent flyer upgrades. No less than three people in business class tapping away on laptop computers, or so Jean reports. I wonder how many will still have a battery when we get to San Francisco? One at least had a power lead plugged into the aircraft laptop supply in the business class seats. About the only negative was United still only had a few noise reducing headphones, however we have carried our own noise reducing headphones for many years. It just would have been neat to compare the results from a couple of different models.

US Customs was a breeze, then we take the long walk to United's domestic area, and sit and wait a long while for our shuttle flight to Seattle. At Seattle, wait for van, drive down I5 past lots of RV sales yards to visit Jean's parents in Lacey. We were even feeling energetic enough to take a short walk around Lacey before dinner.

Saturday 19 February 2000

A beautiful sunny day, which I must say was unexpected. We walk to Mervyns, Sears, and note the South Sound mall is almost empty except for a car dealer. Lots of caravans and RVs for us to inspect in the parking lot, so we had a good time checking how US RVs were set up. Jean found some ear plugs (and made me carry them back). She goes seeking shops selling ear plugs each time we visit the USA. In the evening we tried phoning various Seattle fans.

Read John Barnes' Finity.

Sunday 20 February 2000

Another beautiful sunny day. We walk to KMart across I5, Jean found some tops, and made me carry them back, and on the way back checked Office Depot and Fred Meyers. To my disgust Future Shop had closed; I liked their gadgets. We remembered to get a few bottles of wine, plus some Coke for me. Chinese home delivered for dinner, and the remains lasted several other meals.

Read Bruce Sterling's Distraction.

Monday 21 February 2000

Overcast, but not actually raining. We again walked to KMart where Jean got more tops (and made me carry them back). I got some Dremmel cutting disks, but not the selection of bits and attachments I hoped to find, and some underwear (on sale at silly prices). We left Jean's fanzine masters at Office Depot, where they offered 3.5 cents a page copying, and one cent an issue stapling. I deeply regretted not having done a fanzine myself, at those prices.

Jean's mother took us to see the computer room at the Panorama City retirement community. They had done a wonderful job of setting it up so people could learn about and use computers in a friendly environment. They had two volunteers guiding people when we visited, and obviously at least one person in the community was into solving their hardware issues. I still sort of doubt Jean's parents will be contacting us by email in the near future, but the computer room was encouraging.

Tuesday 22 February 2000

Raining and miserable. A good day to stay home and read.

The books today were Elizabeth Moon's Rules of Engagement and Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica.

Wednesday 23 February 2000

Jean's parents gave us a lift to Fred Meyers, then we visited Mervyns and Sears, discovered Radio Shack in the South Sound Mall sold $3000 satellite phones (not that they would work at home), and bought more books at the fine second hand bookstore. Jean's parents took us to a late lunch of King Salmon at Red Lobster around 2 p.m. I thought I would burst.

Books today were Lee Corey's Space Doctor and Tom Cool's Infectress.

Thursday 24 February 2000

A short walk in the afternoon, when the sun was out, but along a different road way up past Kinkos. Found a computer store, Computer Renaissance, at 3430 Pacific Ave SE, with interesting shareware CDs of FTP applications and of PC compilers. Cheaper than the download time, I hope. The store seems part of a chain, as I found another one at Las Vegas.

The book today was Tom Cool's Secret Realms.

Friday 25 February 2000

We took the 2 p.m. Centralia shuttle to Seattle airport, through heavy traffic on I5, and several diversions to avoid congestion on I5. Although we were a little late, Marci was slowed down by the same traffic, and collected us at 4:20p.m., only five minutes after we arrived. First we had a mercy mission to collect Marci Malinowycz's cat from the vet. The cat (which was enormous) did not approve of the travel arrangements, but seemed delighted to see visitors, albeit briefly before being dropped of at Marci and Tom Whitmore's place.

Potlatch is a convention about writing and reading speculative fiction. It seems to move between Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, and has a tradition of raising funds for Clarion West. This year Ian Hagemann was Chair for the first time, and attempted (successfully I thought) to slightly politicise the program. Jane Hawkins was assistant chair and did the magnificent con suite with Anita Rowland (who always does a wonderful con suite). Alan Rosenthal was very busy on registration, with Janice Murray as treasurer.

While registering, I failed to notice the extensive range of badge decorating materials and stamps available on another table, and had to return later to decorate my badge. This despite the progress report specifically mentioning the badge decorating party.

The con bag was bulging with free items, apparently sourced from many places by Miriam Harline. While I couldn't make use of most of them, and wasn't interested in the fantasy books, I was very impressed by the range of items. The local resources guide to restaurants and bookshops was also very impressive, and proved of great use during my entire stay in Seattle. I wish every con could manage a guide near as good as that.

The Wiscon Room Party had cows as a theme, and featured rich cheeses I shouldn't eat. I seemed to spend most of my time in the con suite, or nearby.

Check out the Potlatch web site at

The University Plaza Hotel can also be accessed via the web (closed in 2005). Jean made our bookings that way, if I recall right.

Saturday 26 February 2000

I didn't get out of the University Plaza Hotel much during the con. Jean and I even had most of our meals at the hotel, mostly in the bar. Spent a lot of time talking with various folks, and not taking any notes, so there are a lot of blank spots.

The book dealers' room was interesting, especially for people trying to complete older spots in their collection. The dealers were Bryan Barrett, Bob and Linda Brown, David Bray, Lady Jayne, Jessica Amanda Salmonson and Wrigley-Cross Books. With our new constraints on our available space, I avoided buying more than a few reading copies of paperbacks. I declare that I was never a collector, and am now not even an accumulator of books. I'll figure out how to explain the 26 (small) bookcases in this room later.

Alan Baum was noticeably suffering from California crud (some strange form of flu, I guess), and could hardly talk. Nor was he the only one, but he seemed in spectacularly wrecked form.

The first panel I attended was 20/20 Hindsight: 20 Years, 20 Essential Books, with Jerry Kaufman moderating Paul Kincaid, Kate Schaefer and Tom Whitmore, and Barb Jensen listed as a replacement for Ron Drummond, but as I recall Ron was there. The panelists worked hard on their suggested books, and Potlatch provided printed copies of their suggestions with short comments. I thought it was a most worthwhile panel for learning of potentially interesting books.

The final panel was Jobs, Money, and Class Power in SF, with Ian Hagemann moderating Mark Manning and Lyn Paleo. Once again four pages of reading suggestion were provided by Potlatch, based on email brainstorming by panelists and others.

Jean went off with Janice Murray and Alan Rosenthal to see their new home. I was jealous about missing that, although I saw it later.

The otherwise excellent and inexpensive Freddie Baer T shirt was basically black. Dark colours just don't go with our tropical climate, so although tempted by the design, I didn't buy one. Jean did.

The registration area also contained the toy room, dominated by a huge Lego display. The engineering types seemed to spend the entire convention extending the Lego into a wonderfully elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that passed balls through multiple paths. I wouldn't have had the patience, but it sure was a sight.

Andy Hooper was the DJ at the Saturday Evening dance. Since I don't dance, and absolutely hate dance (and most other loud) music, I didn't see how that went.

As well as the fine hospitality suite, there was a second official party, but which? Perhaps for Foolscap or maybe for Alexandria Literature ebooks.

Sunday 27 February 2000

The Potlatch brunch was a fine buffet, with interesting people at the table. The noise level was such that I couldn't always make out what was being said.

Marci showed her photos from her photography class lessons. I was thankful all over again for the invention of the automatic everything camera, since I have no eye for composing a photo.

The auction was very entertaining, and raised an impressive amount for Clarion West. In the silent auction, I was outbid for a book I wanted to read but not keep. I hired the book from Judy Bemis, who was returning for Corflu, thus we both got what we wanted cheaper, and Clarion benefitted. Miscellaneous attempts to get to Tom and Marci's favourite sushi place never worked for us, partly because we were always too full after the banquet.

On this last evening, I spent a fair amount of time talking with Neil Rest.

Monday 28 February 2000

Jean went back to her parents' place for a few days. I went to the cleanup in the hospitality suite, where Lindsay Crawford was helping before departing, as were the usual bunch of suspects from the con committee. We seemed to get through the move fairly easily, (despite?) many helpers. Almost all the stuff went across the hall into Bill Bodden and Tracy Benton's room. A really impressive pile of boxes. I took a little overflow to my less convenient room the next floor up.

I wandered around the University district, looking at books. Talked with bookseller Ron Drummond from the panel when he wandered into the magazine shop. The University bookshop had a really great space book, and I wondered if I should get books on SGML etc. Finally decided I couldn't afford the money or the luggage space.

Had dinner just up the road at an Afghan restaurant called Kabul with Donya White. We talked about cooking, and British rail food.

Back at the hotel, at 1 a.m. with Mike Ward and Karen Schaffer drinking rum and talking about society and automation of service jobs. Karen's flower jelly business at is at I'd also better mention Mike's e-books at

Tuesday 28 February 2000

A wonderful sunny morning. Wandered up the street to a breakfast place The Egg Nest, and took some notes on my Psion 5 while waiting for the food. Had an interesting talk with a young lawyer Tamara Chin when she asked questions about my Psion. Spike's partner Tom Becker arrived for his breakfast and we talked geek, before his move to the (more salubrious) Four Seasons Olympia hotel.

A bit more walking and bookshopping during the day.

Mike Ward and Karen Schaffer suggest dinner at an Indian place I'd been to on a previous visit, at 7 p.m. Suzanne Tompkins, Jerry Kaufman, Lise Eisenberg and Moshe Feder all arrived unexpectedly at my room to make dinner plans at 6 p.m. I tell them of the plans and they agree to return at 7 p.m. so we could all go out together.

We went to Cedars, the Indian restaurant. I really enjoyed the vegetable nam and the Tandori selection, but Lise was developing a fever, was unhappy about the food and had to go back to the house where she was staying.

I read the David Weber, Linda Evans, Roland Green and Jan Lindskold collection Worlds of Honor, having borrowed it from Judy Bemis after the auction.

Wednesday 1 March 2000

Drove off with Mike and Karen to check out bookshops. We first visited Thrice Sold Tales and after that returned, and went down Stone seeking Bob Brown, Seattle Book Store and Storey books. While there were many interesting books there, we managed to resist a little better. Karen then directed us under the bridge with a giant troll crushing a VW bug. That is a really neat spot.

Donya arrived soon after 2 p.m. and we all set out for more book shopping. Fremont Place Book Company, Vandewater Books, Thrice Sold Tales on 45th, and others. Bookshops that are named are ones I found I had receipts from afterwards. We even found time for a small meal at a Greek cafe downtown. I had a great time.

Thursday 2 March 2000

Off to the Maytag Laundry for a boring hour or so, followed by grabbing a sandwich at a grocery store. Bill Bowers and Alan Rosenthal phoned, to organise to visit the Mystery Bookshop at 11 a.m. At 10:30 p.m. Debbie phoned, with a car full of con suite supplies. We spent an active half hour moving trolleys to my room pending opening of the con suite. Alan and Bill arrived shortly thereafter. The Mystery Bookshop was very well organised, and seemed to know their stock, and I was very impressed, despite not being a mystery fan.

While Bill continued to browse (and succumb) Alan and I visited the map store, where I found a Garmin III Global Position System gadget, similar to what I'd been planning on buying. The discount was right, and it was a model later than I'd expected to find, so I bought it. After coffee and hamburger for Alan and Bill we reached Alan and Janice's new home at 4 p.m.

Vicky Rosenzweig was already there, then Tony Parker and Judith Bemis arrived back from their travels. Hope "wow I can really type on this, well almost ..." Leibowitz was also staying. Janice Murray got home from work, and started preparing a wonderful fresh salmon dinner for the eight of us.

I was really impressed by their new home. Just perfect for fannish gatherings, as was proved by having eight to dinner, and finding beds for the five fans staying over. Janice showed me her collection of Australian books, which was quite extensive, but perhaps I can add a few more to her collection. Janice also kindly drove me back to the hotel at 11. I was feeling a little guilty about this driving, until I recalled I had once driven their hire car from Sydney to Melbourne.

Friday 3 March 2000

Breakfast and chatter about old computers with Mike Ward at the hotel. As we paid, I pulled a cruel trick on Mike. I asked the cashier if he had a Linux system, so he started telling what his PC had. Then the waitress chipped in to say she had Mandrake Linux on her system. I knew about the cashier being interested, but I swear I didn't know about the waitress.

Jean arrived around midday, and demanded we find food. I took her to a grocery where she could order a takeaway sandwich.

The Corflu web site, organised by Victor Gonzalez, is at

Robert Litchman, Tom Whitmore and Jerry Kaufman helped Victor and Andy put together the fine Fanthology 94 that appeared. In many other areas, the same suspects from Potlatch appeared working hard.

Andy Hooper's co-chair writeup mentions that for the first time in his memory, they entered the weekend without a clear idea where the next Corflu was to be held.

The random Guest of Honour was Ken Forman, a very popular choice.

Jane Hawkins' food event was awesome. Better than many restaurant meals in my opinion. I had no idea she would be doing that much food.

Fanzines received so far at Potlatch or Corflu

Not only did I read all these fanzines, I locced all of them (eventually) by email, thus acting contrary to the received wisdom that fanzines handed out at cons never get a response.

I partied until 1 a.m., however I avoided the fannish games. I had mostly never seen and barely heard of the (I presume) TV programs upon which they based, and probably wouldn't have been interested even if I had.

Saturday 4 March 2000

I seem to recall us attempting to help early person Donya White in doing breakfast type things at the con suite sometime around 8 a.m. I wasn't sure what to make of the weird cereals with little dinosaurs in them, but I was impressed with the hot chocolate drink mixes I encountered at Potlatch and Corflu.

Fannish programming through the day, with fanzine favourites of 1999 the first panel. I avoided the seemingly inevitable TAFF debate.

Dinner with Jean 6 p.m. in the empty hotel bar, after a day of grazing while chatting with people in the three con suites. I'm not sure why the bar was empty, but we speculated that the U.K. fans we expected to find had discovered the free beer in the con suite. Jane Hawkins later produced her usual impressive array of food, followed later by an equally impressive set of deserts and cakes. We were both too full from dinner to really even sample them.

The Iron Faned competition produced two six-page fanzines in one hour. Pretty impressive effort by both fine teams. The influence of the Plokta cabal's superfluous technology could be seen in the various modified photos used in their fanzine Steelhead. Copies of the fanzines were available to members during the con, as several copy shops were nearby towards the University district. I got to bed at 2 a.m.

Sometime during the week I found time to read A King of Infinite Space by Allan Steele.

Sunday 5 March 2000

Arose at 8, feeling a little fragile. Must have been the effects of food deprivation. The empty rum flask surely had nothing to do with it.

Corflu 18 will probably be held in Newport, Rhode Island. Contact organiser Bob Webber, webber at world std com or treasurer Spike Parsons, PO Box 724, Mountain View CA 94042

The banquet was not as impressive as at Potlatch, but nor did we have to pay extra for it, so I wasn't worried. Ken Forman gave extracts of his dam tour as his GoH speech, and then took to the floor with Aileen to do a dance number. Someone was heard to mutter "If you ever do that to me again I'm going to kill you", however it was a charming, unexpected and very different end to a speech, and I'm pleased Aileen played along with the idea.

The incentive for playing in the baseball game that afternoon was a baseball cap. Surveying the walking or limping wounded later that day, I was pleased I hadn't even thought of participating. Now if it had been a game of cricket ... I still wouldn't, but I know that would be boring.

Dinner at Ivars Salmon House with Vicki Rosenzweig, Alan Rosenthal, Janice Murray, Joe Siclari, Bill Bowers, Jean Weber and me. Jean and I had the three salmon meal, which was really great. I wouldn't mind going back there at all. Takes note that Lise Eisenberg was right about it being the place to go. It was much superior to the Cedars Indian restaurant.

Joe Siclari was promoting the idea of fans putting the web version of their fanzines on the Fanac site, and that is where the past issues of Gegenschein now reside. If all goes well, I suspect I will eventually make that the only site for my fanzine. I like the way the Fanac site doesn't force frames around my material, and doesn't contain annoying pop-up advertising. I'm not saying anything negative about the "advertising supported" Tripod site I have been using. It was very convenient to have a free site, but Fanac is simply a better place. It would also be real convenient to have a single site for all fanzines. No more keeping of outdated lists of which fanzine is where.

Head scratchers for fans! UK fans brought one and sold head scratches for TAFF at the dead dog party. Geri Sullivan wants one. They sometimes appear at the local markets here, although apparently none of the US fans had seen them before. Naturally I couldn't find the head scratchers at the markets of late.

Despite the rum, I got to bed by midnight, in an unusual display of sense.

Monday 6 March 2000

Up early so we could organise our airport ride. I didn't realise that a 9 a.m. Shuttle Express meant it would arrive 20 minutes early. We had the hotel paid and were packed by 8:30, but didn't go down to reception with our bags until 8:45, only to find the shuttle already loaded.

I wasn't happy about the airport food prices (nor the range), although Jean bought a $6 sandwich. And the Southwest plane was late leaving (we always allow lots of slack in our schedule, so this didn't cause any problem). Pretzels are too salty, but I was happy to get anything. The pilot came in too high for the tailwind, and for the first time I recall, we had to circle and redo the approach. We later learnt of a plane crash a day or so ago being blamed on a fast or steep approach.

Taxi to the Sahara, where our room was not yet available. Jean had booked over the internet, but the request for non-smoking rooms didn't make it to the hotel so we had a one hour wait. This had happened before, so as previously, we dumped our bags at the Porter's desk, and went for a walk. No problem.

We dined on the $12.85 for two buffet, where I piled up my plate, and ate so much I feared I might burst, and Jean even went back for seconds. It was my only meal for the day, and I did eventually feel a little hungry again. We didn't figure out how to get a Sahara fun book (in case it had coupons for the buffet).

We walked along The Strip, getting more and more foot weary, until we reached The Venetian. This was not complete last time we visited, and so we headed in to check the shops. I was delighted to see a Brookstone. The gondolas had electric motors, with foot controls. There was a Godiva chocolate store (yum!)

To bed at 12:12, rehydrated on Porter and rum. The book for the day was Spindoc by Steve Perry.

Tuesday 7 March 2000

By bus along The Strip way down to Mandalay Bay around 10 a.m. O.K. So we were up late. At the Luxor we finally found the stairway to the Omni cinema, but it seemed to me Fantasia 2000 would be too noisy for me. We wanted to visit Paris, but it took much maneuvering to get across roads now accessible only via overhead walkways. Took a bus to Convention Centre Road, as Jean was meeting friends at Quark's bar at the Hilton. When she returned she had one of their very strange menus, and told of being insulted by Worf.

I walked to Fashion Show Mall and checked the gadget stores. Electronic Boutique had a Corel Word Perfect for Linux for $20. Got given two chocolates, and later told Jean we should get some of the better ones. See Candies have a web site at The Sharper Image had a combined miniature phone handset and FM radio, and a collapsing scooter that would fit in a (large) brief case. Cool. Check their web site. Then I walked back at a great pace. Collapsed for evening.

The book for the day was Fred Saberhagen's Berserker Kill.

Wednesday 8 March 2000

Bus to Caesar's Palace with Jean, where we checked out the Forum Shops. We soon noted the volume of the music played at the moving fountains was too loud, so we retreated. I had fun looking at the Brookstone store, while Jean failed to find suitable shoes. I was tempted by a pair of $29 Teva sandals, but have a spare pair back home so I resisted. I did find some Jelly Bellies miniature jelly beans at The Sweet Factory, and bought some of my favourites. We walked some more. Once again checked the stores in Fashion Show Mall, and again resisted buying, but only just. It started raining, so we moved to The Desert Inn for a while, and then caught the bus back to the Sahara. Once there, having their buffet for lunch seemed a smart move.

As arranged, Ken and Aileen Forman collected us at the Sahara around 7 p.m. and drove us to Joyce and Arnie Katz home, where Ben Wilson and his wife had already arrived. I am sure I have seen both since their marriage, but can't recall the date. Ross Chamberlain arrived a little later, and we sent off for pizza for dinner. As usual, I had a great time, and Arnie was in fine form on fannish topics, the quality of puns from the Irish fans, and about the wrestling game. Not much was said about the Collecting Channel, and I'm certainly hoping it continues in good shape.

The book today was Charles Sheffield's Starfire.

Thursday 9 March 2000

Jean went off with a friend (and took our laundry with her). I caught the 204 bus after ten, out to Sahara Pavilion shopping centre, where I located Computer Renaissance, who have a fine range of new and slightly older computer bits and pieces. Nothing overwhelmingly attractive, but they do tend to have some scarcer things like SCSI CDROM drives. Radio Shack is in the same general area.

Diagonally over Decatur there was Computer Attic, which has much older equipment, including more specialised items like old Cabletron routers and some HP rack mount instruments. Circuit City is nearby, and although they don't specialise in computers, you can easily check prices for many electronic gadgets there.

Office Max was back over Decatur. I failed to find any interesting business cards or papers, but did locate a small book stand and clipboard combination that seemed closer to what I had been seeking than many I have seen. Not, unfortunately, precisely what I needed.

That seemed enough shopping, so I hopped a convenient bus back to the Strip.

The books completed in this part of the trip were Laura J Mixon's Proxies, Forever Free by Joe Haldeman, and David Weber's The Apocalypse Troll.

Friday 10 March 2000

We left Las Vegas for San Francisco on UA2060 at 10:35, and arrived around midday. Getting to the nearest Caltrain station was interesting, as the taxi driver had no idea where the station was. We also had some trouble deciding which direction the train went, as there were no signs on that station (unlike most of the others). Eventually the train arrived and we were off to San Jose, where Mike Ward and Karen Schaefer live. Karen kindly met us at the station, as we once again realised we had too much stuff in our bags.

After a bite of lunch and an inspection of their wonderful book filled home, Jean tries to collect her email, and Karen and I take a walk through the area. The least expected sight was the Rosecrucian Temple and Museum at their world headquarters. Neat stuff.

Strangest book sighted was Jennifer Isaacs' Quirky Gardens from Ten Speed Press, Berkeley originally published by University of Queensland Press. 152pp. Neat photos of strange gardens and letter boxes and stuff in Australia. We hope to see lots of them ourselves eventually.

Dinner in San Jose at Germania (I have an incomplete name here). Those attending included Mike Ward and Karen Schaefer, Gary Mattingly, Bill Humphries, Tom Becker and Spike Parsons, Linda and Rich McAllister, John Bartles and us. I thought it was a great meal, albeit a little rich for my taste (pork stuffed dried fruit), and great company.

Saturday 11 March 2000

Spike kindly took us on an extensive car tour of the area, and found great places to eat. Tom seemed in poor shape, although it didn't really seem to be an obscure symptom of the California crud flu that was present at both conventions, and which many fans caught. He seemed happy enough to stay collapsed at their home, and play us some very strange recordings. Spike later dropped us at the airport.

We were lucky to get to the airport early, as we got seat assignments early. We heard that business class was overbooked, and I assume some people missed their preferred seating.

Books read on the flight were Eagle Against the Stars by Steve White, and Colonization Second Contact by Harry Turtledove.

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Book Reviews

Poul Anderson, Starfarers

Tor, Oct 1999, 495pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812545990

Point sources of hard X rays with radio tails appear, some five thousand light years away. The starship trails give clues on how to build a starship, and after several hundred years, a scientific expedition sets out to find the source of the starfarers. Time dilation gives them duration for a flight that will take over 50 centuries, forever exiled from their home time. How long does a civilisation last, and will there be starfarers at the end of their journey, or one to return to at earth? Classic science fiction from an old master at evoking a sense of the size of the galaxy.

John Barnes, Finity

Tor, Dec 1999, 303pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812571452

A well done alternate worlds adventure, as a obscure professor is recruited from a world where the twelve Reichs control most of the world, and the only Americans are expatriates living in New Zealand and other enclaves. An eccentric billionaire wants to change the worlds, and knows exactly how to do it. However the opposition knows just as much.

Greg Bear Darwin's Radio

Del Rey Ballantine, Sept 1999, 434pp, TPB US$24 ISBN 34542333X

An interesting scientific hunt through to a disease that may have been lurking in our genetic structure for eons. The bodies of a prehistoric family discovered, and the infant has characteristics like those seen in bodies in recent mass grave. Bear is an excellent writer, although this story didn't really grab me.

Terry Brooks, Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace

Lucas Books, March 2000, 324pp, PB A$15.95 ISBN 0345434110

Based on the screenplay and story by George Lucas. This was designed as a film, and I certainly hope it will work better as a film. So go see the film just for fun (that is what I plan to do). That said, the book reads well enough, so compleatists may want a copy. Unfortunately, the story is trite, the events telegraphed, the surprises are not, and the course of the next few films already no surprise. I'm sure the merchandising side of this business will run along fine, selling plastic crap and fake souvenirs to the credulous, and that has become what it is all about, hasn't it? Straight reprint of the hardcover.

John Brunner, Children of the Thunder

DelRey Ballantine, Jan 1989, 340pp, ISBN 034531378X

Freelance science writer Peter Levin is checking a story on juvenile delinquency, and discovers an unusual pattern of impossible crimes. A teenager designs drugs, an unarmed girl kills a commando, a boarding school sex ring run by students, and several others. Is there a common factor in these widely separated incidents, and what is that factor? Are these children sufficiently superior to be considered a new race? Very nice twist at the end, and some interesting ideas and writing throughout.

Ken Catran, dwb Deepwater Black

Hodder, 1997, UK5.99 ISBN 0340727055

Omnibus edition of three previous children's books, based on a TV series I've never heard of. Lots of tech words, very few with any meaning. I thought recent Star Trek stuff was bad, but this is beyond description. Unreadable twaddle.

Jack Chalker, The Moreau Factor

DelRey Ballantine, Feb 2000, 342pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0345402960

Reporter past his prime tries to solve a mystery that starts with the bloody locked room murder of a geneticist who was about to give him a story. A disk and strange DNA sent by the dead geneticist are delivered. And the government is covering things up. As usual with Chalker, we have a bunch of shape changed humans at the bottom of things. Fast enough paced, but the conspiracy didn't seem to me to make a whole lot of sense.

Tom Clancy's Net Force, Hidden Agendas

Headline, 1999, 501pp, A$16.95 ISBN 0747261156

I picked this up remaindered in the "3 for $10" bin, and that is where it deserved to be. Set in 2010, with a government Net Force (the good guys) attempting to counter Internet based crime. It is a straight thriller, little SF interest, and most of the "net" stuff comes because of inside information on the part of the bad guys. Terrorist attack, but it is really just blackmail on a grand scale. Bit of character development, bit of a mystery. I think Steve Perry probably wrote most of it. Series idea from Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik.

Tom Cool, Infectress

Baen, Jan 1997, 370pp, US$5.99 ISBN 0671877631

A crazed ecoterrorist who wants to reduce the world population by 9/10th. An ex-FBI agent determine to have revenge and prevent this. A computer genius who has produced an AI that is the key to making a devastating virus for the terrorist. The fate of the world hangs on whether virtual reality can be distinguished from real life. Fast paced adventure. More than a little hard to suspend disbelief.

Tom Cool, Secret Realms

Tor, April 1999, 304pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812545265

Humans raised as perfect soldiers in a virtual reality, ready to defeat the Japanese enemy. However they are slowly coming to realise that there are secret realms beyond those they inhabit. If they escape, what changes will they make to the war? Very fast paced near future military SF, with David Hartwell as editor, so you know it reads well as SF. Tom Cool appears to have improved between these novels.

Lee Corey, Space Doctor

Ballantine, June 1981, 245pp, US$2.95 ISBN 0345324862

Reads like a golden oldie, which is to say, lots of tech details, and a fairly pedestrian tale of struggle to get the first hospital in space working. Tom Noels is the doctor subcontracted to establish a hospital in high orbit, for the workers making power satellites. They expect 150 deaths in orbital construction, and want every precaution they can afford against this sort of toll. Bureaucratic obstruction comes from the industrial safety medicos, unable to understand that traditional methods don't all work. There is a fairly traditional triangle love interest. G Harry Stein (Lee Corey is his fiction pen name) knows how to write a novel, but his prime interest is space propaganda.

John Cramer, Einstein's Bridge

Avon, May 1998, 310pp, US$3.99 ISBN 0380788314

The Hive invade any universe they detect, and they detect a universe when it builds a sufficiently advanced particle accelerator. An advanced civilisation notices this, and acts to frustrate the Hive if it can. On Earth, the physics group working on the superconducting super collider at Waxahachie notice some anomalies. Lots of material about high energy physics, and the type of personalities who work in that field. Yes, I know the SCC was cancelled. All is explained in this novel, which is a great read for hard SF fans.

Joe Haldeman, Forever Free

Ace, Dec 1999, 277pp, US$21.95 ISBN 0441006973

William Mandella finds God, probably at the behest of publishers demanding a best selling sequel. There is about three quarters of a good, carefully told story here, and then everything goes chaotic. The soldiers from The Forever War are given a planet, tough enough to make them struggle, while the unified human (it isn't a race any more) gently guide them. This does not go down well with some of the soldiers, who would prefer to see if things get better further in the future. There is the start of some interesting indications of what a civilised society might do with old soldiers. Joe Haldeman is a careful writer, but I'm not at all sure this is what he wanted to write. Might revise this on a second reading. Didn't Charles Fort say "we are property"?

David G Hartwell editor, Year's Best SF 4

HarperPrism, June 1999, 484pp, US$6.50 ISBN 0061059021

This anthology covers stories published in 1998. I've said in many reviews that if David Hartwell's name appears as editor of a book he says is SF, then it is pretty sure that I will enjoy it. I have no idea whether he is the "best" editor working in the field today, but I do believe he is the editor who most closely chooses stories suited to my taste.

Hartwell says in his introduction "this book is full of science fiction - every story in the book is clearly that and not something else". I certainly appreciate an anthology where this really is the case. Hartwell also points out that these stories are only a sampling of the best, and claims he could have filled two or three more volumes with similar quality. I wonder if there is perhaps an additional market for a CD-Rom "best of" volume that was not space limited, run by an editor with sufficiently discipline to restrict the stories to ones that clearly fit the description "best". Would I buy that? Depends on the price, and how complete it was, I guess. I'd love to have 90% of my SF collection on CD, since I don't have space to keep the actual physical books.

JMH Lovegrove, The Guardians The Krilov Continuum

Millennium, 1998, 342pp, UK5.99 A$12.95 ISBN 1857985362

Secret cabals, suppressing inventions, we are not alone, lots of events, very little that seems really plotted. Obviously done for the SciFi Channel as a response to The X Files. Reads like a turkey. Forget it.

Laura J Mixon, Proxies

Tor, Oct 1999, 468pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812523873

Strangely plotted and very fast near future tale, with many people interacting using proxy (Waldo) machines. Two secret organisations use antimatter powered human appearing proxies. One wants to take over a soon to launch interstellar probe, and is offering immortality in exchange for help. Carli invented the FTL links they need, lost control to a nasty corporation, but may be able to take the links further than anyone else. However someone has sent an indestructible remote control cyborg killer after her, and no-one can work out who is piloting the killer machine. Very fast paced, by someone who may produce some excellent books in future. Patrick Nielsen Hayden is listed as editor, so I hope the author is being encouraged to continue writing.

Elizabeth Moon, Rules of Engagement

Baen, Nov 1999, 497pp, US$7.99 ISBN 0671578413

A fast paced adventure, sequel to "Once a Hero". Esmay Suiza attends Fleet school to qualify for the command track she has already demonstrated she can handle. An argument with the Speaker's daughter Brun Meager leads many, including the Speaker and her Admiral, to regard Esmay with suspicion when Brun is kidnapped by a planet full of religious fanatics armed with nuclear weapons, intent on piracy and terrorism. Yet Esmay may be crucial to an attempt to rescue the prisoners.

Steve Perry, Spindoc

Ace, Feb 1994, 262pp, US$4.99 ISBN 0441000088

A liar for hire gets involved in chasing the killer of his lover, when a spy from another planet chases a secret discovery. Lots of action, some good scenes, some good description, but straight adventure (with gadgets) for the most part.

Kim Stanley Robinson, Antarctica

Bantam, July 1999, 653pp ISBN 0553574027

Set slightly in the future, and published as a straight novel, not as SF. Amazingly radical and anti-capitalist novel. The descriptions of Antarctica reflect Robinson's experience there in 1995 as a guest of the NSF artists and writers program. Highly recommended.

Fred Saberhagen, Berserker Kill

Tor, Feb 1995, 445pp, US$5.99 ISBN 0812550595

A strange Berserker killing machine captures two humans, but does not kill them. Later the same machine kidnaps an entire orbital biological research lab, and drags it out of orbit, pursued by the dictatorial Premier Dirac. In another plot, an AI rescues Dirac's wife, but in the process, has to turn her into a disembodied intellect. She naturally takes this amiss. Three hundred years later, more Berserkers attack, and then start following the course of the original one, closely pursued by another human fleet. Lots of material about what it means to be human, or intelligent. Grand space opera, as often with the Berserker idea, with more about the origins and aims of the Berserkers.

Charles Sheffield, Aftermath

Bantam, August 1999, 547pp, US$6.50, ISBN 0553577387

A disaster novel, as gamma radiation from the Alpha Centauri supernova wrecks electronic systems all over the earth, and provokes freak storms, flooding and other damage. We follow a Mars expedition making a desperate bid to survive their return journey. Three cancer patients undergoing a radical treatment free the medical researcher who can save them, but he is a Hannibal figure, killer of many young girls. A doomsday cult increases its numbers and frees its charismatic head from her own judicial coma. A fine fast paced novel of the future.

Charles Sheffield, Starfire

Bantam, 1999, 401pp, US$13.95 TPB ISBN 0553378945

Sequel to Aftermath. The Alpha Centauri supernova could not have occurred naturally, and it becomes apparent that the majority of the heavy particles from that explosion were headed towards our solar system. Earth is barely recovered from the destruction the original radiation caused. There is some hope that a gigantic magnetic shield can help protect the Earth, but it may not be ready in time. Lots of politics, murder and mystery in this hard SF novel set fifty years from now. Some of the figures from Aftermath are still active, still plotting.

Allan Steele, A King of Infinite Space

Harper Prism, Dec 1998, 424pp, US$5.95 ISBN 0061057568

Corpsical is revived from cryonic suspension. A very slight space opera, in which neither the politics nor the physics were at all believable. Steele played it partly for laughs, but the plot twists at the end were really silly. Also silly was an escape scene in which the physics just couldn't work (you don't kill a velocity of few kps in seconds with a gas gun, and without even noticing much acceleration). If I see another one this bad, I won't be buying any more of his work.

Bruce Sterling, Distraction

Bantam, Oct 1999, 532pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0553576399

The government is broke in 2044 and the Governor of Louisiana has taken over an airforce base that has fallen off the edge of the budget. Oscar is a political spin doctor, trying to make a difference by getting an altruistic architect elected senator. Oscar falls for a scientist at a sealed biotech habitat, and decides he can keep the scientists at work, sans authority and sans money. Meanwhile, the entire political world is getting crazier and crazier in this political satire. Reminds me a lot of the frantic style of Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron. You may not like it, but it has a lot of good lines.

Bruce Sterling, A Fine Old-Fashioned Future

Bantam, June 1999, 279pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0553576429

Seven previously published cyberpunk stories. These are Maneki Neko, Big Jelly, The Littlest Jackel, Sacred Cow, Deep Eddy, Bicycle Repairman, and Taklamakan. A good collection.

Harry Turtledove, Colonization Second Contact

DelRey, Feb 2000, 598pp ISBN 0345430220

The US, Soviet Union and Nazi Germany are still unable to unite against the invading (older but dumber) aliens. This time there is an entire colonisation fleet, luckily not equipped with more weapons. One of the more detailed alternate history series, with characters continuing from the previous novels. I'm not thrilled with the vast numbers of alternate history novels appearing, but these seem well written.

Vernor Vinge, A Deepness in the Sky

Tor, Jan 2000, 774pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812536355

Light speed ships voyage to a strange planetary system where the sun reignites periodically after a period of dark. They know the system contains intelligent life during the sunlit periods. Two different groups, from different systems, make the journey, and the Traders and Emergents are of totally different viewpoints. Conflict wrecks both sets of ships, unless they can work together to raise the Spider technology to a level that can repair or replace their ships. Yet the spiders themselves have been in internal conflict, nation against nation, for many centuries. The story is set long before the events of A Fire Upon the Deep.

Despite this technical background, the story is about human (and alien) conflict, of hidden motives and hidden capabilities, and about the nature of slavery and mind control. It is also in many ways a mystery story. I wouldn't be surprised to see this on the Hugo ballots.

Peter Watts, Starfish

Tor, July 1999, 374pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812575857

A bioengineered crew of misfits and psychotics crew and repair the geothermal power stations on the bottom of the Pacific. Modified for the pressure, life in the water and in darkness, only the insane would work under such pressure. And only the insane have been able to work there. A very impressive piece of hard SF and psychological thriller.

David Weber, The Apocalypse Troll

Baen, Jan 2000, 398pp, US$7.99 ISBN 0671578456

Two fleets batter each other a lightyear from Earth, as the humans try to prevent the aliens travelling backwards through time to destroy the Earth with their biological weapons. Some cyborg Troll fighter ships survive and reach our time, as does one human fighter ship. When the battle over the Atlantic ends, a US Navy carrier force has just managed to (almost accidentally - the Trolls weren't expecting antique weapons) destroy one Troll fighter by using 300 missiles, the human has destroyed all but one Troll ship before it crashes. Now one Troll ship cyborg knows that it now has no effective opposition, whether it destroys the human race, or enslaves it.

Richard Aston, sailing alone across the Atlantic, picks up from the sea a beautiful human female, unconscious, and critically wounded but with some interesting surprises of her own. Fast paced adventure, in the typical Weber style. One of the better military SF writers.

David Weber, Echoes of Honor

Baen, Oct 1999, 718pp, US$7.99 A$16.95 ISBN 0671578332

Honor Harrington is dead, executed by the People's Republic of Haven on the prison planet Hell. Haven even produced a very moving video of the execution. Of course, it was a pity Ranson's SS ship had exploded, killing everyone on board, before the execution could actually take place. However everyone, on Haven and Manticor, knows Honor is dead.

Honor and her crew of escapees don't believe it, and only have to figure out how to use their two shuttles to take over the prison planet, bring the criminals running the planet to justice, stop the news of the takeover from getting out, and capture enough ships to evacuate a half million prisoners from far behind enemy lines. And if someone sends a task force to investigate anomalies in messages from Hell, they have to solve that problem also, because Honor will not leave any prisoners behind.

Continues a long established set of military novels with a Hornblower character (or perhaps I should say Nelson). The background of Haven is the French revolutionary period (Rob S Pierre is now the leader on Haven, although several of his inner group also have names from the French Committee for Public Safety). You can have a lot of fun checking up on which pieces of history Weber has used in each novel, and I'm sure military historians are seeing lots that I am missing.

David Weber, Linda Evans, Roland Green and Jan Lindskold, Worlds of Honor

Baen, Feb 1999, 343pp, US$21 ISBN 0671577867

Five shorter stories, shared adventures in David Weber's Manticore universe. All were well enough written, for the type of adventure, but I think more an item for compleatists.

Steve White, Eagle Against the Stars

Baen, Jan 2000, 282pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0671578464

The Lokaron arrived from space, and insisted Earth open trade with them, mostly on terms greatly to their advantage. This didn't suit the isolationist Earth First party which ruled the USA. It didn't suit the CIA, and it didn't suit the rebels. So all of them plotted and counter plotted and infiltrated and schemed. Reasonable adventure story, but little to otherwise recommend it to SF readers.

Jack Williamson, Beachhead

Tor, May 1993, 368pp, ISBN 0812513088

Billionaire's son wants to be on the Mars expedition, and after various tests and struggles, he gets his wish. All manner of things go wrong on landing, some of the crew mutiny and desert, and there are corporate takeovers back home on Earth, and suppression of all the expedition results. The son makes a daring (and unconvincing) flight in the Mars lander. Fast paced stuff, but not very realistic. Sure reads like 1930's SF to me however.

Jack Williamson, The Silicon Dagger

Tor, Jan 2000, 334pp, US$6.99 ISBN 0812540425

Are you a hillbilly, tired of big government bothering you? Just have your local computer genius whip up an invisible barrier around your town, and declare your independence (without ensuring your food supply). But first, make sure a bunch of secret agents, government and amateur, are already in town, and frame them for crimes, etc. This one was real hokey, and didn't make a lot of sense. I'm impressed that Jack Williamson is up to date on computers and stuff, but this really is another 1930's style plot. Got to admit that it is fast paced.

Top of Page

The Stock Market Crash

Monday 17 April 2000 is when it started in Australia, with a weekend of looking at US figures. Next day the newspapers were reporting A$36 billion day of disaster. Of course that is total bullshit. The difference between what you might have gotten gambling, and what you had when you walked away from the table is not a loss. Indeed, with the All Ordinaries down only about 6%, it isn't even a crash (so far).

There were a few actual figures in the newspaper. Record number of trades, with ComSec (the Commonwealth Bank's cheap share broker, with 520,000 clients, 135,000 of whom use the Internet) doing 14,000 or 14.5% of the 92,708 trades on the local share market. However the trades ComSec did were $39.9 million shares sold, and $59.4 million bought. Does that sound like vast numbers dropping out of the market? Seems to me more like speculators facing margin calls bailing out, and cashed up people buying cheap when they could find stocks that paid regular dividends.

Stolen Mobile Phones

Just contact to access this co-operative effort by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association which lists the international mobile equipment identity numbers of all phones reported lost or stolen to any of the mobile networks in Australia. Police can access the details of anyone using a phone reported lost. About time this sort of effort appeared here, given that the number of lost and stolen phones appear to be increasing. There was really no good excuse for this not being done much earlier, when every phone is equipped with a unique identifying number, and the cellular providers can identify which cell a phone is in (and probably give a very good indication of the actual physical location).


Optus want 20 cents for 30 seconds of WAP contact, and you get three whole channels of content - finance, sport and entertainment. Finance includes riveting stuff like international market indices, and announcements from the top 50 companies. Now Telstra have said they will also provide WAP at similar prices. It isn't clear whether these prices are in addition to normal (far too high) cell phone connect prices.

Telstra are saying the main inhibitor to WAP adoption was education, not cost. Optus say the initial users were typical early adopters with high income, and a record of updating their technology, and that the main obstacle was a shortage of WAP phones (due to change next year). After a test with 150 users, Vodaphone say they need to simplify their service and the way content was displayed.

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