Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Challenger #23: WAHF

We also heard from (regarding this zine and The Zine Dump #9) Randall Fleming, Bruce Gillespie, Irwin Hirsch, Ben Indick, Terry Jeeves, Irvin Koch, Tim Marion, Cheryl Morgan, Curt Phillips, Jayne Rogers, Janeen Schouten, Steven Silver, Sally Syrjala, Charlie Williams.

Mike Resnick c/o Challenger

I read with some interest Gene Stewart’s guest editorial in #22, and it has prompted me to write one of my very few Letters to the Editor.

Now, since we have a Republican President, a Republican House of Representatives, a Republican Senate, a mildly conservative Supreme Court, and a majority of the governorships and state legislatures are under Republican control, it’s obvious that Mr. Stewart isn’t preaching to the converted. A majority of Americans clearly disagree with him, so I assume his polemic was intended to win at least some of them over.

How does he start? Well, very early on he claims that the United States has gone fascist, which is undeniably a unique way to convince the other side to listen with open minds. I have numerous relatives who suffered under Hitler in Nazi Germany, and I am sure those few who survived would be more than happy to explain to Mr. Stewart, who has never been within hailing distance of a fascist state, exactly how one differs from the America he so clearly fears and detests.

A little later on he speaks contemptuously of “the Nazi Pope”. Now there’s a creative approach to winning the hearts and minds of 60 million American Catholics. And of course the new Pope isn’t a Nazi at all; he was a member of the Hitler Youth back when not being one was often the equivalent of a death sentence for the parents. I’m not a Catholic, but it seems to me that Mr. Stewart has a little more problem with Popes than most people. Earlier he implies that only wrong-headed people of faith (and not just the Catholic faith) refuse to forgive Sinead O’Connor for publicly destroying a picture of Pope John-Paul II, the revered spiritual leader of more than a billion people.

The first fact he states - ­ as opposed to naive beliefs that he presents as accepted truths - ­ is that the Church persecuted Copernicus. That didn’t sound right to me, so I thought I’d look it up to see how thoroughly Mr. Stewart researches his material. The answer - ­ found in less than a minute on the internet ­ - is that far from persecuting Copernicus, the Pope asked him to help update the calendar in 1514, he represented the Bishop of Ermland at the peace talks in Braunsberg in 1519, he was a canon (one step below a priest) in the Church, and he possessed a Doctorate in Canon Law. So much for careful research.

A little later he takes a cheap shot at Ann Coulter. This works if he’s speaking only to people who agree with him - ­ but as I pointed out, a majority of Americans demonstrably do not agree with him. Ann Coulter is an abrasive woman ­ - but I’m not aware that anyone’s ever caught her in a major misstatement of fact. Liberals use Newt and Coulter the way conservatives use Teddy and Hillary - ­ and in all cases, it’s absolutely meaningless without facts to back up the contemptuous comparisons.

Mr. Stewart claims that the 2000 election was stolen. Okay, he’s not the only one. But of course he gives no facts to back it up, merely states it as a matter of (dare I use the word?) faith. I wonder what he would have said if the Supreme Court had ruled for Gore, and the Republicans had claimed that the election had been stolen while offering no more proof than he himself presents.

He finds it either contradictory or hypocritical that President Bush gave a speech stating that we must lessen our dependence on foreign oil a few hours after hosting a Saudi prince at his Crawford ranch. Of course, the alternative would be to toss the Saudis out on their ears and make do without any replacement for Saudi oil until Anwar comes on line somewhere around 2015. It’ll raise the price of gas and heating oil up past $10.00 a gallon for the next decade, bur he’ll sure feel moral about it. Give me hypocrisy every time - ­ but I think in this case I’ll call it pragmatism. Or better still, common sense.

He claims that science fiction, as we currently know it, is due to be “expunged, forbidden, or far worse, co-opted and controlled” by the evil ogres who currently hold the reins of power (by majority vote, not revolution or executive fiat, I must continue to point out). This, of course, is utter rubbish. I have sold to every major magazine in the field over the past three decades, and to all but one mass market book publisher - ­ and no one (repeat no one) has ever told me what I could or couldn’t write, what subjects or words were verboten or likely to get me in trouble. I have written a novel in which the Messiah and God are the villains. I have given God speaking lines half a dozen times. I have written a 4-book series set on an orbiting whorehouse. I have had so many minority protagonists that the Baltimore Sun and the University of Pittsburgh have both stated that I was black, and a West Coast newspaper told its readers that I was Hispanic. (I’m neither.) The thought that anyone is going to tell me - ­ or any other science fiction writer ­ - what we can and can’t write is absolutely ludicrous, and tends to negate those (very few) points that he hadn’t already demolished by his unsubstantiated overstatements,

Throughout his editorial, Mr. Stewart makes no bones of the fact that he holds “True Believers” ­ - i.e., religious Americans - in contempt, and views them as the enemy. It’s a curious conclusion when you consider that just about every man who signed the Declaration of Independence and worked on the Constitution - ­ the documents he is certain are under serious threat from religious Americans - ­ was a devout believer in God. Whereas I myself am an atheist, and I disagree with almost everything he says.

I’m sure there will be a tendency on Mr. Stewart’s part to write me off as a knee-jerk right-winger, which is his privilege, and is certainly easier than substantiating all his claims. But this is a right-winger who voted for John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, even George McGovern and Jimmy Carter, and who actually was once a very minor Democratic office holder in Libertyville, Illinois. It is true that I am no longer a Democrat, but I would have no trouble voting for a ticket topped by, say, Bill Richardson and Joe Lieberman. I believe there are valid arguments to be made for the causes and positions with which I disagree. In fact, their greatest weakness is that they are represented by an abundance of spokesmen like Mr. Stewart.
Those interested in intelligent opinion/commentary on the theft of the 2000 election can find the same in Paul Krugman’s August, 2005 op-editorials in The New York Times and the book he cites, Steal This Vote by Andrew Gumball.

Lloyd Penney, Etobicoke, ON CANADA

On the Canadian sports channel, TSN, I have has the opportunity to watch some Australian rules football. A minimum of padding and protection, and a maximum of pounding. I've heard games described as an orchestrated war.

Orchestrated by Spike Jones, maybe. I watched from the stands, hundreds of yards from the action, and still felt lucky to get out alive! Now—I can’t wait till the next time! Go Tigers!

I think Alex Slate is right. The war in Iraq was based on lies and nonsense. But then, the first Gulf War was also launched on lies and a skilful PR campaign. The real reason American goes to war is to bolster its economy, especially when it looks like it's slipping. Either the Bushes saw a reason where there was none, or billions of dollars have been spent, and nearly 2000 US troops, and countless Iraqis, have been killed, simply to make each Bush look good and strong and patriotic in the American public's eyes, and to sink more money into Halliburton's treasury. I don't think Jeb Bush is going to run for President, but if he ever does, run away quickly, and vote Anyone But Bush. It also looks like that before Afghanistan and Iraq are finished up, Iran and its nuclear capabilities may be the next target. Please vote for sanity, and vote for someone we all can like and endure without America further making itself a voice for tyranny in the name of freedom and liberty.

All through this issue ... good fan art, especially Charlie Williams' industrial 500-lb. can of Tang. The variety in Charlie’s work ranges from deeply serious to wildly comic. The man is amazing.

I look forward to that James Hogan book ... should be a good read when it arrives. The New Orleans Symphony Book Fair also sounds like some fun. I wish something like that could happen here. Actually, there is an event called Word on the Street, comes along every September, and after many years of making it a day-long street fair, it is occupying the grounds of Queen's Park, which is where the Ontario provincial parliament buildings are. It is supposed to be a festival of literacy, but has turned into a clearance sale for stationery and giftware that some large publishing companies have accumulated over the year. If it was good stuff they were selling, it would be fine, but one gets the feeling they are clearing out the trash. I didn't go to this fair last year, and I might go to it this year, either. I think I'd rather have the quiet adventure of scoping out some good quality used book stores.

I certainly agree with Greg Benford about media coverage of the space programme. With the current problems, and the successful return of the Discovery, so many newspapers and radio and television stations have complained that the shuttle programme has cost us too much money and too many lives, and it's time to get rid of our decades-past sci-fi dream of going to the stars, and deal with reality on this planet. The greatest shame is that many of these editorial rants against the shuttle programme, and about space exploration in general, comes from publications aimed at our youth. They say it's too expensive to dream; in this era of killer video games and personality cult, we must dream to escape the fate of sinking into our own navels. We must look outwards in order to learn, dream in order to grow.

I think many Americans who do have friends from outside the US know not to confuse Americans with American governments or American foreign policy. I know not to blame my American friends for the action of its government. The catch-phrase is government for the people by the people, and we all know that it is a catch-phrase, and not much more. The government, once elected, will do as it pleases, and it knows that memories are often short. To all Americans who are embarrassed and ashamed by the actions of your government, all I can say is the best thing you can do is get out and vote next presidential election day, and it can't come soon enough.

But what happens if Rudolph Giuliani runs, maintains W’s honky base, and wins? Within six months we’d be reminiscing about those golden Bush years.

The fans in Melbourne are a group I'd really like to meet. I've been getting Ethel since issue 22, when Ian Gunn was the editor, and I've read about generations of Australian fans coming and going. I'd like to join them at the church for a get together some time, but there's simply too much geography in the way. Plan now for 2010!

Spam hunting? Is this anything like the annual spaghetti harvest in Italy? One of the newest hunting grounds for spam is Nigeria, where it has found new grounds in which to grow. It's extremely plentiful there, although some of it says it's from there, but is from elsewhere in reality. It's not edible, unfortunately, and is mostly a pest to be eradicated. I've never had the chance to spend much time with the Lynches, and never had the chance to talk with Nicki, which is definitely my loss. My best time with the Lynches has to be in the Winnipeg Worldcon fanzine lounge, which was in an old abandoned cocktail lounge in the Winnipeg Convention Centre. The Lynches has their Hugo, I had my Aurora, Andy Porter had his Hugo at his table on the other side of the room, and the atmosphere was good fun and frolic, good times and companionship. I sincerely hope that kind of day will return, but in the meantime, that time together will have to suffice as one of the better times I've had at Worldcon.

Tim Marion echoes the old line that it's warm only two to three months a year in Canada. Winter can last about three solid months, more if you're in the northern territories, and less if you live in a place like Vancouver. Springs are nice here, falls are pleasant, and so far, this summer has been one of the hottest on record in Toronto.
The summer heat in Shreveport was brutal ­ close to 100, with 100% humidity, almost every day. But until August 29th I imagined the savage heat was beneficial I thought the high pressure kept the hurricanes offshore. Ha.

Do we need a new name for science fiction? For fantasy, perhaps? Science fiction brings up Star Trek and Star Wars for many people, and fantasy means kink, or daydreaming. If there is anything that allows your imagination to take flight, the public attaches a negative spin to it. Speculative fiction? Futuristic fiction? Another article about the fascism and tyranny inherent in the activities of the Bush regime. Do I see a trend here?

Familiar Taral art, and lots of familiar names, including Barry Kent MacKay, who is still around as a naturalist, and not involved in fanart at all. I've always liked Taral's gamins, and it's the first time I've seen Calvin stealing Saara Mar's bra top.

Joseph T. Major, Louisville, Kentucky

Welcome: Yes, she is, very welcome. In an age of fronts that span from the Brass Bra’ed Babe of Planet Stories to the Baen Battle Babe, that cover sticks out — STANDS out.

A Symphony of Books: “My ear was sore.” If speakerphones had been as cheap then as they are now (I just bought a speakerphone/caller ID phone for $9.99) John and Pat Adkins might never have quit talking.

Earlier this year, on the last day of the Friends of the Library Book Sale, they were having the clear-out sale; two dollars per box. We packed them as tightly as possible, and I still think that Modesty Blaise book fell out when the one box burst. (Quote appropriate psalm here.)

An entire box of Sabatinis for 10¢ each? “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

Are you talking about Scaramouche or John Guidry, who found those gems? By the way, John reports that his Sabatini collection came through Katrina and the flood untouched.

Almost Half a Century: “It was on December 10, 1954 ...” When I start feeling old I get some reminders like this. That day was two weeks before I was born. (Insert obligatory remark about kids who don’t understand How It Usta Be.)

And then insert obligatory remark about poor kids born the day before Christmas. I was smart: came down the chute in July. Presents twice a year.

The Easter Bilby: And now you know why the Australians have such ambiguous feelings about Warner Brothers’ Tasmanian Devil cartoons. If he actually managed to eat Bugs Bunny, now . . .

Spam Are Plentiful This Year: Spam are adventitious fauna, even more plentiful in their original homeland of Nigeria, where it is estimated that there are 419 different types, many named after famous politicians.

The Chorus Lines: Rich Zellich: Lisa wanted to go to Cooperstown, but we couldn’t make Goshen, Saratoga Springs, and Cooperstown all in the pre-Boston portion of the trip. Now she’s doing baseball even more, unfortunately the most-local team (the Reds) is in the cellar of its division.

Charlie Williams: I remember the six-ounce Coca-Cola, too. When I could drink soft drinks with sugar in them. Try Kosher for Passover Coca-Cola, which has sugar. Corn syrup — “high-fructose corn sweetener” — ferments and so is treife for Pesach.

Grant Kruger: Well, Guy may forgive the author of The Dispossessed anything, but Minik probably wouldn’t. Read Give Me My Father’s Body by Kenn Harper for the story of Minik the Inuit and what the museum people, including Alfred Kroeber, father of Ursula, did to Minik’s father’s body.

I used to visit Kroeber Hall, the anthropology school at Berkeley. Beautiful museum ­ and it was a hoot to know the daughter of the man it was named after.

Monster’s Brawl: Remember that Randall Garrett’s “The Napoli Express” was written as a refutation of the “Murder on the Orient Express” theory of impromptu conspiracies.

The End of the World: I was reading the novel of Vampire Hunter D, which is better known as an animé. The Yokohama ‘07 people had been passing out booklets of the first chapter to prove that hey, they did have written stuff too. So I got the entire novel. The catastrophic nuclear war which bred the creatures in the book took place in — 1999. Were you too busy to notice, too?

Last Words: Personally, the hero of the Red River Campaign was the general who marched his cavalry brigade unmolested across what was proclaimed as Union territory — General James Patrick Major, my fifth cousin twice removed. We are part of history.

Gregory Benford c/o Challenger

Another fine issue. I especially liked the Resnick piece on his departed friend.

Joseph Nicholas is as usual insightful in the LOC column. He's right on about oil reserves ­ the easily gotten is getting more scarce. New technologies will expand the reserve, but at some cost. We could make petrol from oil shale or even coal if we like, but at prices above $100/barrel. O think we'll do so, being energy gluttons, but the greenhouse problem will hem us in. It's a global form of the tragedy of the commons.

I recall Joseph's letter an issue back downplaying the chances for a manned exploration of the solar system. All seemingly plausible, until one notes that over 20 billion dollars goes into space programs already, the majority of it for manned. We're paying the price, just not ­ with our Shuttle and Space Station that yield nothing ­ getting the goods. Space tourism will loosen this further within about 5 years. So there is hope.

Jerry Page's insightful reminiscence on Jerry Burge took me back to that sole meeting of ASFO I attended as a snot-nosed 13-year-old. I think it was Jerry P's first meeting, too, and I was awed by the fmz and sophisticated talk. I stayed so late the buses stopped running and I had to take a cab home. A few weeks later we moved to Germany, Jim & I determined to start a fmz, Void. Jerry Burge and Ian Macauley (where he?) really turned me onto S.F. fandom, and ASFO was a crucial influence in US fandom, especially with their hardbound of Moskowitz's The Immortal Storm. I took it as the Old Testament, later deciding that Walt Willis was the Jesus sent to save us from error. Not far wrong! And Islam is...?

James N. Dawson

Thanks for the notice [that Challenger #22 was on-line].

I clicked on and it came up. When I tried to click on 2 of the first items in the table of contents, they each came of "this page cannot be displayed" (PCNBD).

I managed to bring up the 3rd one, but when I called up Print Preview so I could see how many pages it was to decided whether I wanted to actually print it out, it got stuck on page one and I couldn't even scroll down with it to go to the next page.

This morning I thought I'd try it again, called up challzine, and I got another PCNBD.

Yes, I could haul out a manual or try to wade through some on-line "Help" page or pages, but that's a tiresome and time consuming chore and completely negates, for me, the whole concept of reading a zine, and that's to relax. With a paper zine I just pick it up and with my thumb and forefingers (functionally, in my opinion, so much easier and more efficient than a "mouse") and start reading ­ preferably in a relaxing, reclining position. No wrestling with glitches and struggling to decipher cryptic, technicalese "error messages", just to "turn the page".

Okay, I'm not trying to complain or be down on you ­ I appreciate your notice and maybe I'll get to Challenger if and when I have the time and determination ­ but I just wanted to try to explain, at least partly, why some of us "still do (and much prefer) paper zines.”

No need to explain that to me. I infinitely prefer paperzines myself. In fact, if I had my way I’d be cranking this thing out on mimeotone and sending it to every faned, SF club, BNF, cute girl, and fan-friendly pro in the English-speaking world. Not to mention running it through SFPA.

But I can’t have my way ­ I work for poor people and simply earn too little to print and distribute sufficient paper copies of Challenger. I’ll continue to run Chall on the web and offer print copies to those who can help print them. Better than that I cannot do.

Your woes have been duely noted. I changed my method and uploaded all of the new challzine issue in one fell swoop. In the future, please let me know if you experience problems with any pages. I may be able to help you and you will certainly be helping me if there is a problem. Thanks! ~ challzine webmaster ;-p

Richard Dengrove, Alexandria, VA

Should I say anything about the cover of Challenger 22? Better not. Better comment on other things in your zine.

I can say something about the war in Iraq. I am going to be different too. It is always treated as all plus or a all minus. In fact, I believe the Bushies had convinced themselves, egged on by a cabal of Neocons, that it would be all plus, the panacea for all our ills in the Middle East. Anyone who suggested otherwise was not a team player, like those who suggested postwar planning.

On the other hand, the Iraqi War turns out to be both a minus and a plus. The big plus is of course is that an awful tyrant was deposed and there is a good chance for a democracy of sorts.

Alongside that are big minuses. One big minus is since our victory favored the Shiites and the Kurds, we have soured our relationship with most of our allies in the Middle East, who are Sunnis.

Another big minus is that, for now, we have provided a sanctuary for al Qaeda ­ Iraq. Enough Iraqis are pissed off or convinced our invasion is the vanguard for a new Crusade. Why else can terrorists blow up Americans and our friends, and then fade into the population?

The Iraqi invasion is not the only two edged sword in Challenger James Hogan's "Decontamination Squad" is two edged too. If you change the extraterrestrial’s terminology, and make him an exterminator or developer, the object of the satire would change from left to right. You could do it even better if you had the extraterrestrial working for what sounded like a corporation.

A change in terminology does not change everything, though. I know Australian football is hyped as a family sport. However, your description and Dr. Hilton's of a real Australian “Footie” game makes it sound more like rowdy European soccer than a family sport. I notice the ladies went shopping while you guys watched.

Some things go farther and are based totally on hype. I get that impression of Y2K. I mean no offense to Jerry Proctor, but I have never known a computer that stopped no matter what happened to its clock.

When, in the early ’90s, I was being warned that if the clock went the computer went, I received ample proof this didn't happen. The clock went on all my early computers, but the computer itself never went.

After I told the scaremongers this, they said that it happened on earlier machines. In short, the belief was starting to resemble an urban legend. I guess ultimately it ballooned into the Y2K scare.

The opposite happens too some things believed fiction are fact. Mike Resnick doubted that Captain Nemo could be an India Indian like he was in the movie League of Extraordinary Men. I tried to make it into fact, but I did not go far enough. I said I thought he was in an unpublished draft of 20,000 Leagues. I would like to thank Joe Major for pointing out that Captain Nemo as an Indian Indian was in a published novel. He was Prince Dakkar of Bundelkund in Mysterious Island.

Of course we do not always care if something is factual or not. Greg Benford's novel Beyond Infinity, for instance. At least, the title can't be. Still, with a title like that, I wouldn't even care if it took place at 13 o'-clock on February 30th!

Sometimes, I require even less. Just showing up is sufficient. I would like to thank Joe Major and Robert Kennedy merely for commenting on my Moon Hoax essay. This does not mean that Joe's comment wasn't great and I didn't also love Robert's compliment.

Robert Kennedy,Camarillo, CA

I have another child-care workers case for you where innocent people were convicted and sent to prison. It’s Fells Acres in Malden, Massachusetts. It was very similar to the McMartin Preschool case here in California. As I said in a comment in my previous LOC, Joe Major is much better versed on these subjects (child-care, satanic ritual, false memory) than am I. (That comment somehow didn’t make it into print. Perhaps the Bavarian Illuminati have struck me again.) Anyway, maybe Joe could be prevailed upon to write one or more articles on the subject. Joe, heed your public!

Also, the following somehow didn’t make it into print of my previous LOC “That leads me to the Michael Jackson child molestation case. The prosecution’s case appears a bit shaky. Michael Jackson is obviously a first class, number one wacko. But, that doesn’t mean he did it. He also has the best lawyers money can buy. I would not be surprised at a Not Guilty verdict or a hung jury.” If the newspaper’s report of the Mother’s actions during her testimony was accurate, I could just see the prosecution cringing and saying to themselves “we just lost the case.”

How about this? Martha Stewart goes to prison for lying while not under oath. Sandy Burger steals and destroys secret documents and gets a slap on the wrist. Does anyone else see something wrong here?

“End of the World Games” by Jerry Proctor—The reason Y2K did not result in a disaster was that a fortune ($) was spent to see that it was not a disaster.

Sheryl Birkhead, Gaithersburg MD

The J.K. Potter cover on #21 fooled me ­ I would have placed a wager that it was by Al … but I think you can finish off the name ­ total surprise!

“Al” ­ as in Alan White ­ did this issue’s cover. Jeff Potter tells me that the mirrored man on #21 was a reveler he originally photographed at Mardi Gras, and combined with the scene of Boston harbor.

A question about Emerald City ­ I see that it is a nominee for the Fanzine Hugo ­ okay, fair enough. Then, I see that EC is also a nominee in the website category. Hmm. I am assuming that being one does not preclude the other? I would tend to think that this is two shots at the same target ­ yes/no?

EC is clearly a fanzine under Worldcon rules, and it appears on the web, so … why not?

Bob Sabella ­ I am very glad that I heard, early on, that I, Robot was not I, Robot, if you know what I mean, that it drew from Asimov, but was not the book. Knowing that ahead of time helped soften the realization when I saw it.

I also went in knowing that the Will Smith vehicle had next to nothing to do with the Asimov collection, but was still bored with the movie and disgusted with its portrayal of Susan Calvin ­ one of SF’s greatest characters reduced to eye candy.

Bill Wright, Kilda West, Vict. Australia

Your article on Aussie Rules football in Chall 22 is spot on as far as it goes but it doesn't deal with the annual finals series, which is at the pointy end of the rapture and excitement of the game.

The winter season consists of sixteen clubs from five of Australia's six Capital Cities playing 22 weekly home & away games. The eight winning clubs in each round earn 4 premiership points (or 2 premiership points in the rare, but not uncommon, event of a draw). During the season, clubs are ranked in a premiership table according to points earned to date. Top team at the end of 22 rounds wins what is called the Minor Premiership. Then follows a four-week finals series of matches.

Finalists are the top eight of the sixteen clubs in the premiership table at the end of the home & away season. Yes, that's right, half the teams. In the first week of the finals series, all eight teams play one another according to their rankings in the minor premiership table. The games are 1st v 4th, 2nd v 3rd, 5th v 8th and 6th v 7th. The top four sides on the ladder after the home and away season are guaranteed a double chance after the first week of the finals while sides finishing 5th to 8th need to win every game to win the premiership. The winners of the games 1st v 4th, and 2nd v 3rd proceed straight to the preliminary final in week 3. The losers of those games receive the double chance and play in the semi-finals in week 2.

The games 5th v 8th and 6th v 7th are cut-throat qualifying finals with the losers being eliminated and the winners proceeding to the semi-finals.

The remaining three weeks of the finals are cut-throat. The winners of the semi-final in week 2 proceed to the preliminary final, while the losers are eliminated. There are two preliminary finals in week 3, with the winners both proceeding to the AFL Grand Final. The losers are eliminated.

The above describes only the Main Game. There are many lesser leagues, including their analogues in fandom. Here is a group photograph of stars of the Great Fannish Football Game held under the auspices of the late John Foyster at Ponderosa Farm near the Victorian regional city of Kyneton in September 1973. Also included is a less flattering photograph of the writer being ordered off the field by Foyster, who refereed the match.

In my last segment of comments on Chall 22 I refer to Australia's six Capital Cities. I didn't include the National Capital, Canberra, or the Capital of the Northern Territory (bigger than Texas), Darwin. So that should be eight Capital Cities. Sorry for the error.

For the record, following is a list of Australia's eight Capital Cities

Canberra, the National Capital
Darwin, Capital of the Northern Territory
Sydney, Capital of New South Wales
Melbourne, Capital of Victoria
Brisbane, Capital of Queensland
Adelaide, Capital of South Australia
Perth, Capital of Western Australia
Hobart, Capital of Tasmania
Thanks for straightening that out.

James P Hogan is to be congratulated for his sensible and timely parable outlining the decontamination of Earth. Unquestionably, the piece serves as a powerful testament to the doctrine of Intelligent Design that hammers on the intellectual bastions of fandom. Those who are dismayed by Chaos must rely on Faith and blessed are those whose genius gives us reason to Believe.

The idea of a Great Architect overseeing the micro workings out of macrocosmic affairs is not new. What is fresh and exciting is the concept of carbon-based life as akin to a slime mould retarding the progress of a superior electro-mechanical species. Consideration of the virtues of purity and cleanliness makes it patently obvious that machines are at the apex of creation. So, logically, unbelievers who find (or fabricate) evidence to the contrary, including the laughable suggestion that mere men created machines, must be mistaken.

Humans are an untidy froth of nerve endings whose insane activities have polluted the planet. The sooner they are done away with to make way for a benign symbiosis of virus and machine (a corruption of which already exists on the Internet) the better. The Prophet James P Hogan discerns the hand of the Great Architect in the process. ‘Twere blasphemy to deny it.

I read with interest the views of your guest editorialist, Alexander R Slate, on the whys and wherefores of the invasion of Iraq. The main Blair-Bush justification for going to war, although subsequently shown to be false, was compelling at the time to the extent that many initial skeptics were reluctantly convinced of the necessity. Some of us, including Mr Slate, warned of consequences either way - ie. of invading or not invading. What has become evident after the event is that invading Iraq without moral or adequate ethical justification exacerbated predictable consequences.

Unlike the situation in earlier conflicts such as Vietnam, America cannot simply withdraw. This time the power interests of the United States are fully in play. The Coalition of the Willing must win this one decisively and that means unwavering commitment to massive recurrent haemorrhages of blood and treasure over the next ten to fifteen years. Should there be a failure of political will to see out this conflict, America might be left with nothing but a short-term advantage in deployment of weapons of mass destruction. Certainly America's credit would be exhausted, leaving it in the same bankrupt state as Great Britain found herself after being shafted with the initial burden of World War II. The choice would be between abject capitulation and global catastrophe unless, of course, India and China were to take the nations of the West into their very expensive nursing homes. Thankfully, before that happens I shall be safely and cosily dead.

Mr Slate's Black Plague analogy is apposite, but he doesn't take it far enough. Yes, the Black Plague meant a tremendous decrease in population pressures in Europe but it also immunised the survivors and their descendants against future outbreaks of the disease, which is a Good Thing. Perhaps the workings out of the Iraq experience will imbue our leaders with a sense of history and so immunise them against impulsive aggression. One can only hope.

Alexis Gilliland, South Arlington, VA

A couple of days ago Challenger #22 blew in, if you will excuse the expression, and I figured your mailing had gone out just ahead of the powerful Katrina.

After expressing concern to Lee, I looked ona map tto find Shreveport tucked away in the northwestern corner of Louisiana, pretty much out of harm’s way, while she went on the net to check out the satellite pictures of your neighborhood, pretty much confirming what the map had suggested. We hope that this is in fact the case. Katrina missed us completely; all we felt was a breeze ­ and depthless heartache.

Locally, there were some tornados touching down in suburban Maryland as Katrina blew past, and spectacular cloud formations, but the news coming out of the Gulf Coast is simply appalling. Because of subsidence, New Orleans sits in a levee-enclosed bowl that is 80 percent below sea level, and when the levees broke the day after the storm, N.O. was 80 percent under water. Sigh. The mayor had ordered the evacuation of his city of 485,000, but a lot of people stayed because they had no money, no car, and no place to go. Now they are collecting the survivors (a headline guesses “thousands” dead) and moving them out, too, but it will be a long time ­ if ever ­ before those people can return home.

Why? New Orleans is, or used to be, two cities, one rich and mostly white, the other poor and mostly black, and it is dead certain that the rich white city will be rebuilt before the poor black one. Given N.O.’s site below sea level, a case could be made for not rebuilding the white city, either, as suggested by Dennis Hastert, GOP Speaker of the House ­ who has been doing some serious backpedaling.

The “whitest” section of New Orleans, the Garden District, survived Katrina and the flood without much damage, as did the French Quarter. On the other hand, some “white” neighborhoods caught hell (see “Survivor”, infra). All a matter of which levees broke, where. Of course New Orleans must reopen; as Don Markstein says in his Guest Editorial, it’s a natural site for a port.

The cover art [to Chall #22] was striking, though I would have done the font and placing of the title differently. As it is, it looks almost like an afterthought.

Charlotte and Jerry Proctor are entertaining on end of the world games. When I was at the Bureau of Standards in the late ‘60s, I took a course in radiochemistry from Dr. Charles Schwab, the Bureau’s radiation health officer. In those days, building fallout shelters and stocking them for four weeks, as urged by the Administration, was all the rage. Since the class had all been cleared for Secret or better, Dr. Schwab gave us the official data on fallout, and had the class calculate how long it would take before one wuld have a 50-50 chance of surviving upon leaving the shelter. The class average was four months, not four weeks, so the Proctors weren’t the only ones playing end of the world games.

Your own “Monster’s Brawl” was excellent, probably my favorite piece in the issue, though your “Symphony of Books” was well written. Alas, I am not enough of a bibliophile to find the discovery of first editions in a yard sale or huckster room to be a thing of drama.

Milt Stevens, Simi Valley, CA

Your article "A Symphony of Books" brought back memories of my own days as a mad dog completist collector. When I first visited Forry Ackerman in 1959 I actually intended to one day have a collection as large as his. Aside from that, I showed relatively few signs of mental aberration. If they had only cooperated and stopped publishing SF in 1959, I might actually have managed it. As it was, I eventually crossed the collectorish divide. When you are first collecting space seems infinite and your desires are even bigger than that. One day, you wake up and realize you don’t have any more vacant walls in your house, and buying the house next door to further your collection isn’t a practical option. You’ve long known that much SF isn’t worth the powder to blow it to Hell, but that didn’t stop you from collecting it anyway. Now you have to accept that maybe you don’t need to own absolutely everything. Owning a whole bunch of stuff will actually do.

Speaking of owning a whole bunch of stuff, the title of Greg Benford’s proposed novel, Beyond Infinity, rang a bell. I prowled a couple of book shelves and located my copy of Beyond Infinity. It was a single author collection of four stories by Robert Spencer Carr and appeared as a Dell paperback in 1951. From what I recall of this volume, Greg’s novel will be far more in keeping with the title.

Jerry Page’s article on Jerry Burge brought back some different memories. Coven 13 was one of the few prozines ever published in Los Angeles, and it was being published when I got out of the Navy in 1969. I tried for a job. As a demo, I proofread their last issue to show I could improve their proofreading to a major degree. I don’t think they expected to be in business long, so they weren’t interested in proofreading. I hadn’t thought about Bill Crawford’s involvement in the change from Coven 13 to Witchcraft and Sorcery in many years. Crawford’s publishing efforts were always garage industry. When I first encountered issues of Fantasy Book and Spaceway I had no idea that SF publishing could operate on such a slender shoestring.

Having an Easter Bandicoot sounds like a totally silly idea. However, having an Easter Bunny is a totally silly idea too. What sort of a free thinker plot led to a bunny becoming the symbol of what started out as a major religious festival. Especially a bunny that may lay extremely peculiar eggs. If a chicken laid eggs that looked like that, it would be a very sick chicken.

Charlotte Proctor mentions her son once believed that his father lived in the basement. When I was a very young child my father didn’t live in the basement, but he did sleep there most of the time. He was a police officer and worked mostly at night. He had built himself a bedroom in the basement, so he wouldn’t be disturbed during the day. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I suppose I might have got some funny looks if I had told people that my father spent his days sleeping in the basement, but he usually got up around sunset.

And regarding The Zine Dump #10 … Cheryl Morgan

Many thanks once again for the kind words [in The Zine Dump #10]. Just one small niggle. The way you wrote the review makes it sound like I'm making money for me. In the short and medium terms that's certainly not the case. The first priority has been to cover costs, which I think I've done. After that I'll be paying top quality people to write feature articles (I have Gary Wolfe and Jeff Vandermeer lined up). And after that I'll be paying my reviewers. Only if all of those are achieved will I pay myself.