Friday, December 31, 2004

Robert Kennedy, Camarillo California USA

Thank you for #20. Great Frank Wu cover. Great pictures.

Thanks for pointing me to your website for The Zine Dump. But, what were you doing up at 2:16 a.m. on Friday, August 27?

Reading and reviewing fanzines. What else can one do at 2:16 a.m. on a Friday in August?

That brings up another question. How do lawyers who get brutal murderers (like O.J. Simpson) off live with themselves? Is it just a game?

It looks like the trial of Terry Nichols in Oklahoma was a complete waste of the taxpayers' money. The whole idea of having the trial was to obtain the death penalty. But, all they got were more life sentences. This brings up a question I've had for a long time. The original trial of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols was not held in Oklahoma (Colorado?). Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution states: "The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes have been committed ..." I do not believe that was the first time the Constitution was ignored in the location of a trial. So, by what "justification" was the
Constitution violated?

No, it's a system - an adversarial system where advocates argue the merits of a case before a neutral authority and let that authority decide whether the prosecution hasproven its allegations. It's founded on the democratic faith that this authority - a judge or a jury - will make just, intelligent, and humane decisions. Of course, this human element will fail occasionally. When it fails to the detriment of an innocent defendant, appellate courts exist to find and correct the problem. When it fails to convict a guilty party, as it did in the Simpson case, then it's a reminder that our country demands prosecutors be as close to perfect as possible - because we fear punishing the innocent infinitely more than we fear allowing the guilty to go free.

Outstanding coverage of Julius Schwartz. I had only one problem and that was in your "Strange Schwartz Stories". It's in the use of the expression "sci-fi." Every time I see or hear "sci-fi," I cringe. (Well, not in a book store of the Sci-Fi Channel. That I can handle. And yes, I know who coined the expression.) To me it's always been Science Fiction or SF.

To me, as well. My only excuse is that I wrote the piece thirty years ago.

The confession by your father-in-law, Joseph L. Green, "The Mistakes Tech Writers Do Live After Them" was quite interesting. The commentary by Alexis Gilliland and Gregory Benford were well worth reading. Mike Resnick's indication that the title of the movie Starship Troopers should have been Ken & Barbie Go to War was great. "The Night I Saw Death" by Albert Hoffman was rather frightening. Another excellent Sherlock Holmes piece by Craig Hilton. Your commentary "Dope Court" was insightful as usual. Your reference to "Richard Nixon's war" was a bit off. Back in the early 1970's while I was taking a class at Pasadena City College, someone had strung up a banner referring to "Nixon's War". Someone else had somehow got up to the banner, crossed that out, and written in the much more correct and accurate "Kennedy/Johnson War." Let's not have another rewriting of history.

Certainly Lyndon Johnson, at least, bears great responsibility for initiating full-scale American involvement in the Vietnam War, but most of our casualties and at least half
of our domestic damage came on Nixon's watch. I'd fault both.

Joseph Major: Bugliosi is, of course, correct that O.J. Simpson was guilty. However, Bugliosi also believes that the people charged in the McMartin case were guilty. Any rational review of the case indicates that they were innocent. Even though they were finally found not guilty, their lives and livelihood were destroyed.

Demonstrating (again) the value of the adversarial legal system. Public opinion had the McMartins - accused of child molestation at their day care centers - as good as lynched, but lawyers stepped in, applied the law, and at least saved their freedom.

GHLIII: Yes, the last scene in Paths of Glory is gripping. But, what is the song?

I call upon Inge Glass, Dwight Decker or some other reader who understands German for the answer.

We did meet at the Chicago Worldcon in 2000. It was by the fanzine area and we talked for a few minutes. However, apparently you were so besotted by Rose-Marie having recently agreed to marry you that your memory of our meeting is a blank.

Apparently so, and I dash my brains on the floor in apology. But it only makes anticipating the next time we meet that much more fun.

Tim Marion, New York New York USA

[It’s] a helluvalot easier to access your website than go digging thru several feet of papers looking for unopened mail. And it's a very easy-to-read format, too – you sure have come a long way from telling Ned Brooks "What the hell are you talking about?" when he suggested you PDF your finished fanzine pages. This computer screen friendly format is much superior to merely scanning your pages in as a picture.

More accolades for Patrice Green, the genius behind

As for Greg Benford's article, strip-mining asteroids (originally the Moon) is not a new idea -- it was first proposed at least 25 years ago by Professor Gerard O'Neill of Princeton University. At the time he wrote a book on the subject, which I read both for informative purposes and to see if it could help me in my job as Assistant Editor of the trade magazine Mining Equipment International, where we wrote an article on O'Neill's suggestions. Basically he posited mining robots on the moon who could then throw ore samples out into space but within the moon's orbit. These samples would then be picked up by a roving satellite which would then process them for use on Earth. I don't know why these ideas were never taken up – doubtless they were considered too expensive. It's much less expensive to destroy the Earth instead. Greg Benford suggests that after we have depleted the natural resources of the Earth we should move to outer asteroids. I'm suggesting we move to the outer asteroids now and keep what remains on Earth, both to preserve our world and to "have something in the bank," so to speak.

Responding to your readers who are discussing current times, I would like to comment to Richard Dengrove that Saddam Hussein was not a "Moslem Arab" – I believe he has identified himself as an atheist in the past. On his cabinet, he had ministers and advisers of different religions, including Christians. Saddam Hussein was fundamentally opposed by most Arabs in the Moslem world, and was viewed as a "heretic" by Osama bin Laden. All of this changed with our latest attack on that country. Now al Qaeda is helping Iraq and the Moslem world is united more than ever against us. Now more than ever they have reason to chant what I've heard many Americans saying (even one fan!), "It's either us or them!"

Prediction: war with Iran by 2006 – 25 years later than necessary.

Craig Hilton says it is futile to attempt to find blame for the hole in American security which allowed 9/11 to happen. Stanley Hilton (no relation, I presume, to Craig), who was once the lawyer for Bob Dole, is now representing the families of the victims of 9/11, and claims that he has proof that our president personally signed off on the order to have 9/11 happen. Rather than being piloted by suicidal terrorists, the planes were directed by remote control into the World Trade Center – technology we've had for years. What lends credence to his claim is the fact that we normally have F-16 fighter jets surround passenger (or other) planes that go off their pre-designated flight paths, but yet they were told to stand down on the morning of 9/11 – according to Hilton, they were told it was just another drill, which is why they weren't there.

Stanley Hilton also claimed that Kerry would "roll over" for Bush, which is exactly what he did – after what is probably the very most controversial presidential election in history – many mysterious ballots counted by "electronic means" which vary significantly with the exit polls for the same districts. Gee, Guy, it used to be only the third-world countries had the elections stolen from them – isn't progress wonderful?!

Taral Wayne was whistling right down my alley with his article on the Anderson's lamentable "Supermarionation" (a process they developed without me, despite the use of my name). I concede many of the weaknesses of Thunderbirds, but have to say, that once one puts oneself in the proper headspace for watching cartoons, it became quite fascinating watching those ships troll slowly across the runway before they took off. Usually my reaction was, "Wow, isn't that ship cool?" both before and after my adulthood. It's a pleasure to watch it slowly scroll/stroll across the screen as one thusly gets to see it better.

It's funny that Taral says "Thundersbirds Are No Go." When I saw a live-action movie advertised around the same theme, when what little charm the series had before resided with the puppets, all I could say was, "Thunderbirds Are Stop."

And I too fondly remember Stingray, including the episode Taral mentions where they end up in someone's aquarium. To the best of my memory, this aquarium was a fish tank owned by their underwater-dwelling enemies, who were now (in this episode) gigantic. Of course, it all turned out to be just a dream.

And a part of me still can't help but fall in love with the anthropomorphic mermaid with the big eyes, or appreciate the ending theme love song – "Mareena... Aqua-Maree-ee-eena... When will you say those words my heart is longing to hear?" She was mute, and the protagonist was in love with her. It was obvious she felt considerably for him too, as she risked her little puppet life more than once to save his.

Altho I can sympathize with Carol Resnick for not wanting to watch SF movies with her husband, Mike, I emphathize even more with Mike in his disappointment of several highly-rated movies. Surely no one would have been wanting to watch the last Star Trek movie with me, which was without a doubt one of the worst movies ever made. No muttering for me --- I was practically jumping up and down in my seat and screaming and shouting at the screen! Seldom have I been so outraged by a mere movie.

I can definitely understand Resnick's reaction to Star Wars – when I first saw it, with other fans, I found myself groaning throughout, mainly due to the childish and idiotic dialogue. I think there has seldom been a more over-rated movie. In order to keep my involvement with a movie, the characters have to act and speak in a fairly realistic fashion. Which doesn't mean that I have to agree or identify with them.

I do think he's a little too critical of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, however, which I regarded as more of a fantasy than SF. It was intentionally anachronistic; not through carelessness. Deliberate anachronisms are becoming a genréé unto themselves (such as "steam punk"). League was a sumptuous feast for the eyes and it was fun seeing the different interpretations of the popular characters. I'm not concerned with the inaccuracies of African geography, since most viewers may not be familiar with such. (Such errors should not occur, but do not detract from the story.)

Have to take issue with Mike about a couple of other movies – Blade Runner was a lot of fun and another visual feast, which Resnick acknowledges, but pokes fun of the title for not having a literal analog within the movie. Although I agree it's a melodramatic title, obviously it's use is a figurative one – that hunting down escaped felons (especially super-powered ones) is as dangerous as running on a blade.

Likewise I can't help but feel that Resnick missed a whole bunch of the first Matrix movie when he says, "The whole world runs on computers, which means the whole world is powered by electricity to a far greater extent than America is at this moment. So why is the underground city lit only by burning torches?" Did he miss the part where the human population is being kept asleep in pods so that the electrical currents from their brains can be harnessed for energy? The underground city was not exploiting humans in this way.

Not that I want to be a big defender of either of these movies, although I did enjoy them...

Your editorial is powerful and outraged, as well it should be. Surely no right-thinking American wants our nation to be known as a nation of torturers ... but as you point out, it's too late. Now with yet another stolen election, I feel that there is almost no one left to listen. I'm seriously thinking about moving to another country, if more of the same is all I have to look forward to.

Joseph Joseph Nicholas, London England UK

I want to respond in particular to Greg Benford's article, although it really consists of two distinct arguments yoked uneasily together – speculation on the technological feasibility of manned expeditions to the other plants of the solar system, and a critique of some current British space opera (or "new space opera" as it's called here, meaning harder-edged and less romantic narratives than of yore – no damsels in distress, few aliens, and lots and lots of recomplicated physical and biological concepts). The two don't really have much to do with each other, even though the technological speculation is presented as a sort-of means of realising the fictional planetary conquests.

I'll deal with the space opera comments first. (After all, they come first in the actual article.) Benford says that "The BRS (Banks/Reynolds/Stross) pole seems Libertarian/anarchist, and by Libertarianism I mean anarchism with a police force and a respect for contract law", but this seriously misreads Banks. His "Culture" series is a literal communist utopia, based on the simple realisation that a truly space-faring society would have long ago solved all its energy problems and thus have access to limitless wealth and resources. This is why there is no money in the Culture: there is no scarcity to regulate. (Or even any work, if you don't want to work – "from each according to their abilities (if they feel like it), to each according to their needs (or their greed)". Those who read carefully between the lines of The Excession will realise that the Culture is actually kept running by the AIs.)

Benford gets MacLeod wrong too. "MacLeod is the closest thing to a true classical socialist, as in The Stone Canal. But even MacLeod is all over the board. Though socialism was his earliest fancy, he experiments with multiple social structures." This comes close to confusing the author with his creations. MacLeod is a socialist; but for the purposes of the story (because otherwise there'd be no conflict to drive it forward) it is sometimes necessary for him to place capitalists centre-stage. As in The Stone Canal, the least socialist of all the novels in The Fall Revolution Quartet. (Many people were uncomfortable with the promotion of revolutionary liberation through space travel in his first novel, The Star Fraction, considering the two mutually exclusive – but it is in spirit true to the Gernsbackian notion of "man emancipated by machines", and straight out of the Marxian tradition.)

Turning now to Benford's technological speculation about what's necessary to realise the exploration (and even settlement) of the solar system, I would say that while his programme is impressively worked-out, he's addressing entirely the wrong question. The principal question to be addressed is not whether it's technologically feasible to send a manned mission to Mars (or wherever), but whether there is the political will to do so. I say this because it is only governments which are in a position to invest the sums required across the time horizons required, in the full knowledge that the entire investment might be wasted; corporations cannot. Any board of directors which advised its shareholders that it was preparing to spend squillions a year for the next umpty-ump years on a project to (say) mine the asteroids with no guarantee of a return on the investment (or any returns at all) would soon find itself replaced, and the corporation returned to its original business of selling widgets and making money. Space travel is just too expensive for anyone other than governments, which can borrow at far lower rates of interest than corporations and don't have to worry about shareholder dividends and directors' bonuses – or even making a profit. Corporations won't spend money on manned space exploration, because as far they're concerned it's money wasted.

A chorus of voices will doubtless now remind me of Burt Rutan and Spaceship One, a private corporation boldly going where the government didn't. Rutan's was indeed a very successful venture – to 100 kilometres. 100 kilometres isn't even sub-orbital, and simply demonstrates how much further corporations would have to go, and how much more would have to be spent, before they are anywhere near competing with governments. The fact that bandwagon-jumping Richard Branson wants to offer tours up to 100 kilometres in Rutan's craft only undermines the idea of private spaceflight – by demonstrating both its triviality (day trips to view the curvature of the earth) and its expensiveness (only the very rich would be able to afford it).

(Another chorus of voices – perhaps the same chorus – will doubtless embark on the familiar mantra that private enterprise is inherently leaner and more efficient than governments. I would advise anyone wishing to advance this argument with a Briton to first familiarise themselves with the history of the Conservative government's privatisation of British public corporations in the 1980s and 1990s. In almost every case, the privatised business delivered a worse service at higher cost – and in one case, the rail infrastructure, had to be taken back into public ownership because of its shambolic management and operations. QED.)

Politics is largely driven by electoral cycles, which are much shorter than the likely lengths of the envisaged voyages around the solar system – which almost by itself explains the lack of political will to fund them. There may be one or two visionaries scattered throughout government, who are prepared to argue day and night for the conquest of the high frontier (or whatever it's called these days), but they will get little leverage in comparison with those wanting results in the here and now. I'm aware that the Bush administration has agreed incremental year-on-year increases in NASA's budget with the objective of putting manned spaceflight back on the agenda, but this kind of money is inherently vulnerable to other economic factors – more tax cuts for the rich, a need to reduce the budget deficit, a desire for more and/or newer weapons for the military, whatever – and even in the absence of these factors the promised sums are nowhere near enough. How much manned spaceflight would really cost was shown by the first Bush administration's projected expedition to Mars: announced to fanfares, killed off immediately by Congress because of its gargantuan cost. In short: the era of manned spaceflight is over, for good and all, before it ever really began.

(Yes, resource depletion may provide a plausible motive. But see above, under electoral cycles: by the time any government is ready to acknowledge that resources are running out, it will be too late to do anything about the situation. And neither I nor Benford have mentioned the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, which estimates that world oil production may have already passed its peak and from here onwards energy can only become more expensive. When that happens, no one will care about going to Mars.)

On one level, this is a bit of a let-down – I discovered science fiction at about the same time as I started following the Gemini and Apollo missions, and in my boy's mind it was easy to confuse the two: to regard one as the literal transposition of the other. I imagine that lots of other people did too – but as the 1960s wore in into the 1970s, it became clear that there was never intended to be a follow-up to the Moon landings: Apollo was a propaganda stunt, dreamed up by the Kennedy administration in the aftermath of the Bays of Pigs fiasco, to put one over on the Soviet Union. And it succeeded brilliantly – at which point political interest in the whole business virtually evaporated. Imaginings of what might have been, had there been a coherent long-range programme in the first place, such as Stephen Baxter's Voyage, are largely exercises in nostalgia. (I suspect that this aborting of the near-future as it then appeared is in some ways responsible for the rise of the new space opera – adventure in the distant corners of the galaxy on its own is insufficient; it has to be given the trappings of verisimilitude, through new discoveries in biology and physics and a range of socio-political ideologies, to avoid being seen as mere wish-fulfilment.)

But on another level, I do get a little irritated with those who keep promoting manned space exploration as though it has a real future. Grow up! I want to shout at them, Face the bloody facts! Because while facing the facts may be unexciting, it really will save a great deal of disappointment later on.

But let's move on from Benford and the exploration of space – to your short piece on your various encounters with Ronald Reagan. "I'd credit the Pope with the cultural miracle that persuaded Europe that communism was a dead duck," you say, but I don't think the Pope had much input here. As a Pole, he clearly had a higher profile in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc, but little actual engagement with the political process (inasmuch as there actually was then a political process in the former Eastern Bloc). On the other hand, though, and despite what the neo-cons like to claim, Star Wars defence systems had nothing to do with it either: Soviet-style communism fell because it was economically rotten, and had been for decades. Gorbachev's desire to offload the drain that the former Eastern Bloc had become stemmed in part from his recognition of this – although it's arguable (albeit counter-factual, and thus unprovable) that if there hadn't been an old guard coup in 1991, attempting to turn back the clock, there might still be a Soviet Union today.

You also refer to "the Queen of England". As a matter of tedious accuracy, there is no such person; she is queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (called the UK for short). England, itself, is merely one of three countries (the other two are Wales and Scotland) which make up Britain. (Great Britain, just for the record, consists of Britain plus the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.) I realise that these distinctions may be of little moment to a US citizen, but using England to mean Wales and Scotland risks seriously pissing off the Welsh and the Scots. It's as if we were to label US citizens as Mexicans or Canadians because Mexico and Canada were also part of North America. Or, for a better example, to describe good ole Southern boys as Yankees.

I shall say little about Iraq – chiefly because anything I do say runs the risk of being out of date almost immediately. (The second US attack on Fallujah is proceeding as I write.) From what you know of my politics, you will not be surprised to hear me say that the invasion was based on a lie; that the toppling of rulers you don't like (irrespective of their behaviour) is contrary to international law; that the neo-cons' plans for the reconstruction of Iraq (inasmuch as they actually had any plans) are a ludicrous fantasy; and that the occupation has made the Middle East more unstable, has irrevocably poisoned relations between the West and the Muslim world, and has made the West more vulnerable to terrorist attack and the world as a whole more dangerous. (QED.)

And my country, America, more brutal, more hypocritical, more arrogant, more isolate, more despised ... and more deservedly so. I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Sheryl Birkhead, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA

June 26, 2004

Dear Chall crew,

First, my hearty apologies for not having written bettersooner. I realized that something was amiss when I barely squeaked into the WAHF list in #20--well yeah, sure...ya didn’t write much...uh--yup, that’ll do it. So, again, my apologies.

Thanks for letting us know how Sue Mason felt about the Hugo win. I emailed her after I heard the news of her win and told her to enjoy the rest of the convention. She got right back to me and informed me of her true whereabouts.

Just so you know, I looked at one issue of Emerald City and did not get the feel that it was a zine..uh...I hope you know what I mean--maybe my cyber bumblings didn’t get me to the right place, or maybe this was not a real issue--but, I have not tried to re-trace my steps yet to see where the trail of breadcrumbs takes me. Many
fen extol the praises of e-zines, but I haven’t gone there yet. heck, I have enough trouble handling those that manage to shoot through the (metaphorical) mailslot! I am sure it is my loss.

This year, for the first time in several years, I have (as yet) been unable to come up with some sort of mascot/theme to create a pastel piece of the fan fund auction at Noreascon. I may have to resort to providing an older piece that has just been languishing in the box of miscellaneous bits. I tried contacting the concom a handful of times to ask about sending critters, but perhaps I had the wrong email (aha- that must be the problem, it is a technology conspiracy!) and the missives never arrived. That’ll teach me to trust the ether!

Drat! I was hoping (whine..) that Craig Hilton would provide the illos for his article--but I’ll take what I can get. That makes articles from two fans that I do not normally see presented in such a way--although Ned puts out his own perszine...

John Berry’s piece points out the vagaries of the english language even amongst the lot of us who purport to speak it. After I made some minor translations, I managed to get along
quite well--having a tailgate party indeed...and not inviting their rescuer (is there a more appropriate term? speed bump?) and his wife to join them, they can jolly well hand draw their own illustrations!

As always, thank you for running the photos of the con.

The last note I had from Frank Wu mentioned that he was newly married!

Did Colombo really drive a Toyota? I thought it was Peugeot, but since I really did not think about it much- Joe Major is probably right.

Interesting cover on #20, by Frank Wu--shades of years long past.

Yeah, losing Julie Schwartz was a loss for all of fandom.

I am assuming ( a dangerous thing to do, I know) that the souvenir/program book for Noreascon is what will manage to get to those of us who have a supporting membership--right? It sounds as if it is going to be a humdinger.... Quite a few worldcons ago (yeah, back in the Stone Age)--I forget which one, there was a booklet that was placed on each seat in the auditorium where the Hugos were to be presented. This little booklet was a ghreat idea! It highlighted each and every nominee, specifically at the time when they should be getting the accolades that befitted their accomplishments. To my knowledge- no worldcon has done the same thing since then...and it was such a nice memento.

Ah, now you know why Alexis (Gilliland) is such a fannish treasure--a fan who does it all and does it so very well!

Well.well...Craig Hilton ( the Ghood Doctor) appears again and he still is not illustrating his words...but inmformation Sherlockian is too good to pass up even without his illustrations.

Jerry (Kaufman)-chuckle--if you think Rich Dengrove’s article has a lot of sentence fragments, you should have seen his similar article for his own zine Jomp Jr. before I read it and tried to get him to clean up all the clauses he persisted in dressing up as full sentences. At first I don’t think he believed me, but as the re-writes came, I think he got the message. I think that the final version that appeared in his own zine had taken care of almost all of them.

Once again, I want to thank you for the super remembrances and documentation you have provided for the life of Julie Schwartz--obviously a labor of love.

I have continued nattering on-if you want the continuation- use it, if not, please let me know. I am trying to get the Tim Kirk fanartist article for you--honest!


Monday, December 27, 2004

Sir Arthur Clarke, Columbo Sri Lanka

Arthur Clarke reports he is well in Sri Lanka following the regional disaster. According to LA fan Bill Warren, friends of Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog) are in contact with Clarke and obtained the following statement as well as permission to circulate it to anyone interested. Guy Lillian III was the source of this copy of Warren's e-mail.

Clarke writes:

"Thank you for your concern about my safety in the wake of Sunday's devastating tidal wave.

"I am enormously relieved that my family and household have escaped the ravages of the sea that suddenly invaded most parts of coastal Sri Lanka, leaving a trail of destruction.

"But many others were not so fortunate. For hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans and an unknown number of foreign tourists, the day after Christmas turned out to be a living nightmare reminiscent of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.

"Among those affected are my staff based at our diving station in Hikkaduwa and holiday bungalow in Kahawa - both beachfront properties located in areas worst hit. We still don't know the full extent of damage as both roads and phones have been damaged. Early reports indicate that we have lost most of our diving equipment and boats. Not all our staff members are accounted for - yet.

"This is indeed a disaster of unprecedented magnitude for Sri Lanka which lacks the resources and capacity to cope with the aftermath. We are all trying to contribute to the relief efforts. We shall keep you informed as we learn more about what happened.

"Curiously enough, in my first book on Sri Lanka, I had written about another tidal wave reaching the Galle harbour (see Chapter 8 in THE REEFS OF TAPROBANE, 1957). That happened in August 1883, following the eruption of Krakatoa in roughly the same part of the Indian Ocean."

Arthur Clarke 27 December 2004
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