Monday, June 11, 2007

Further to the articles you published on Robert E. Howard. I attach a scan of a commemorative postmark issued by the USPS in his honor.

Unfortunately the writing on the sheet of paper in the typewritwer is too blurred in my copy of the postmark to make out but is probably a list of characters and titles from Howard's writing.

Courtesy Dale Speirs, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

For this first letter, a note of explanation: Diane
Hughes, a psychotherapist, was a frequent
attendee of many Southern conventions in the '80s
and '90s, and a great friend. When I recently
chanced upon her e-dress I asked her to read
Challenger #23 -- and my closing tribute to my pal
and neighbor, Cynthia Snowden.

Diane Hughes

I just finished reading the piece about Cynthia and I have tears in my eyes. You did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of a very special person and the senseless tragedy of her death that occurred at least partially because of the lack of responsibility of those who should have been more careful in providing for her care in a crisis, and I certainly don't mean you.

It was beautifully written and very moving, and I wish you my condolences for your loss. It sounds as if what you had with her was an utterly irreplaceable relationship. My sympathies.

I'm delighted to hear you are married. I commend you for being a public defender which as I know is poorly paid and difficult work.

It's good to be in touch again.

In 1984, when I was at one of my lowest points, ever, a lovely lady approached me at a convention and drew me into talking about my pain, the first step towards finding balance and hope and peace of mind. She was not only a fan, but a psychologist, not only a psychologist, but a friend. You were that lady. It's been too many years.

Susan R. Higgins

Thanks again for yet another outstanding issue of Challenger. I love every breath of it.

Shelby Vick, Panama City Beach FL

Many compliments, Guy – Chall 25 is – to me! – a big success. Great in appearance, stupendous in content. I particularly liked Curt Phillips' adulation of Bob Tucker and agree with it all. (For a different aspect, check out where our sixth issue is dedicated to Bob.)

I also immensely enjoyed Mary Ann van Hartesveldt's analysis of Scientology. I remember when the first edition of Dianetics came out, remember reading it, remember wanting to believe things were so simple ... and then, I remember when Realization Hit. It isn't science-fiction; Scientology is fantasy!

Also enjoyed the interview with Bester. Science fiction authors had a lot to do with the comics field, just as the field had its effect on science fiction.

In short, great issue!

Henry L. Welch

Editor, The Knarley Knews
http ://

Thanks for the latest Challenger. As always, a fine issue.

The Watts Towers seem like a manifestation of some kind of insanity. I am generally too practical to even think of attempting a similar endeavor on almost any scale.

I'm not certain if Greg Benford is aware, but the TV show Myth Busters did some experimenting on the airline crash position. They were able to determine that the extent of your injuries would be greatly reduced in that position relative to sitting upright. The picture wasn't pretty either way and the certainly didn't address the likelihood of fire or roll-over during a crash.

Fred Lerner, White River Junction VT

Thanks for Challenger #25, which came in today's mail, along with the latest issue of Extrapolation. I read Chall in one sitting, but I have yet to open Extrap, and I suspect I'll never read that issue. It's devoted to Ursula K. Le Guin, and I think my time would be better spent reading her than reading about her. The nice thing about Challenger is that I can both read you and read about you at the same time.

Jeeze, pass that Extrapolation on to me! Any good critical writing about LeGuin is worth reading.

By far the most interesting piece in this issue was "Hebrews 13:3". I'm fond of quoting Kipling's line from Captains Courageous: "The most interesting thing in the world is to find out how the next man gets his vittles." When someone not only tells you how he makes his living, but conveys the passion that led him into that work and sustains him through the disappointment and despair that are built into it, you can see how absolutely right Kipling was. From "Hebrews 13:3" I learned something about Louisiana's criminal justice system, something about the miscreants who find their way into its clutches, and a good deal about who Guy Lillian is and what makes him tick. These are all things well worth knowing - especially the last.

Your piece on your interview with Alfie Bester was fascinating. I well remember Heinlein's appearance at the 92nd Street YM/YWHA (not the YWCA) in Manhattan. He didn't give a speech, but rather selected written questions from the audience and gave his answers to them. Afterwards, when he sat signing autographs, I was standing nearby when Alexei Panshin walked up and tried to introduce himself. Heinlein refused to shake hands with him, on the grounds that Panshin had read letters that Heinlein had written privately. That was the only occasion on which I saw Heinlein in person; the experience didn't cause me to wish to repeat the experience.

As you can see from "A Show of Hands" this issue, I was there too! You should've found me and mentioned that we'd be exchanging fanzines in thirty years.

I was glad to see your pictures of the Watts Towers, which do indeed remind me of the whimsically embellished architecture of Antonio Gaudíí. He, too, used scraps and shards as decorative elements in his constructions; and he, too, worked Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. Of all the arts, architecture is the one that most compels my interest, I think because it reveals more than any other endeavor the assumptions of the architect and the society in which he works. The painter and the composer may create the most elaborate of structures: but they need not worry about them falling down! That danger imbues architecture, even at its most whimsical, with a seriousness that is sometimes lacking in the other arts.

Joseph Major, Louisville, Kentucky

It would be interesting to compare The City and the Stars with its first draft, Against the Fall of Night. This is a strange case indeed, of a book that was seriously revised – and yet the first draft is still considered an independent, worthwhile work. The broad theme remains the same (in some ways, Against the Fall of Night is as much a thematic follow-o John W. Campbell's stories "Twilight" and "Night") but there is a wealth of comparison to be made of the differences.

Clarke is one of the few writers who considers the universe as it stands beautiful and mysterious, who can evoke the wonder of reality. Sometimes this is in an entire book, and sometimes the wonder can stem from a single, wondrously suggestive line: "I do not think we will have to wait for long."

As I've said before, one of the most moving scenes in The Whole Wide World is the one where Novalyne Price hears a sound coming from the back of the Howard house, and following it, finds Robert bashing out a Conan story, bellowing the words out as he types them. How often do movies show the creative impulse so vividly? (I wrote an outline for a story where REH writes a letter asking for help with derivations of words, from which much contact, change, and cross-fertilization occurs.)

The recent fire in Cross Plains, which stopped just short of the Howard House, is proof that Crom is not as totally uncaring as some would like you to think.

The guy at the Space Cadets signing who had the wrong idea: I've read about similar cases. A few years ago, when the wondrous glow of JMS was still lighting the sky of fandom, after Babylon Five had gone off the air, JMS and the stars of his new show, Crusade, were guests at a con. People noticed that the actors went around in a group and never talked to anyone outside their official appearances. Did they think they were at a Creation*Con?

Now that the 70k limit is a thing of the past, why hasn't someone striven for a "Restored" edition of The Demolished Man, with the prologue restored? It works for others. But then, even with the Prologue restored, TDM would still be too short for today's book business.

The deleted sequence is printed and discussed in Redemolished, a book of Bester's essays.

Referring to the Hugo Awards as a "failed system" leaves the question of what else to do. The FAAN Awards are hardly that much different, just smaller. So what does Frohvet see as the failure, and what does he think should be done?

Langford, as said, has a voting bloc. It isn't like that nomination of that book; these people genuinely think him the best fan writer they read. Or only. Wherein lies the problem. Can we make people go out and read a broader spectrum of writers?

Campbell often argued as a contrarian. Christopher Hitchens might take a lesson from his works.

"Worldcons lately have been ghettoizing fan-related programming." Tell me about it! Items put up against the Opening Ceremonies. Or on the last day of the con, an hour before closing ceremonies. San Antonio (and doesn't that go back a ways) had the best fan program, but even there one could see the harbingers of decline.

Louisville's own Sue Grafton is running into a P is for Problem with her L is for Letter series of mysteries. It may be necessary for her to buy and take to heart Dr. Seuss's On Beyond Zebra!

"SNEE is for Sneedle
A terrible kind of ferocious mos-keedle
Whose hum-dinger stinger is sharp as a needle…"

Guy and Bob: Thank you for your kind wishes.

Wishes that worked! Congratulations on your Hugo nomination for Heinlein's Children!

I will say that Chris Garcia is a very enthusiastic recipient & LoChack of Alexiad. It's obvious that he lives in a dimension where there are 200k+ seconds in the day, and at least eight days a week (Beatles reference, y'know).

George Romney had only been elected governor of Michigan in 1962 and in those days that was not sufficient time in office to consider a candidate qualified for the Presidency. Also, he was born in Mexico, which some people might have thought a problem then.

I believe Burton's last words were actually "My God, I am a dead man!" See To Your Scattered Bodies Go.

There is a thread on James Randi's website forum about Ted Gunderson. Ted was assigned to supervise the digging up of the site of the McMartin Preschool. He and the diggers produced a report which showed that the cunning molestors had managed to fill in the tunnels so that they were indistinguishable from the undisturbed soil. Thus invalidating several hundred years of archaeological experience and practice.

And now Tucker.

He wasn't supposed to die. He wasn't supposed to die! That was the whole point of those reports so long ago. He couldn't die.

Life goes on, but it will never be the same.

Mark Plummer, Croydon, Surrey, UK

Thanks for sending me that link to the new Challenger. I confess that of late – since you went electronic, essentially – I've not given your publication the attention it undoubtedly deserves. This is mainly because until relatively recently we've been existing on a dial-up internet connection which isn't exactly conducive to reading this kind of online fanzine.

Actually, I was mildly surprised to discover that you were able to tell us of
Challenger's existence before James Bacon did so, and then secretly rather pleased that I was able to tell James about it myself. This last year or so I've noticed that we've moved on from us telling James things to him telling us, popping round of an evening to brief us on the latest developments in Worldcon politics or future plans for the British Eastercon or whatever. I fear sometimes that we may be subsiding into eminence, consigned to the sidelines and reduced to shaking our heads at ''these young fans today'' while James storms on towards world fandom domination.

And to think that I remember him from that first UK convention he describes in his article. You will be unsurprised to hear that the cling-film is rather an enduring imagine...

But yes, it's a very ... Jamesian piece. It starts off going in one direction, then suddenly changes tack, shooting off at an angle, forking, looping, doubling back on itself. I get the impression that he's developing a style which will ultimately enable him to embrace all themes and subjects in a kind of unified theory of everything, the James Bacon article to end all James Bacon articles in which he will explain what fandom is and what it's for, and exactly who did saw Courtney's Boat, as well as setting out an agenda to end world poverty and provide free energy across the globe, and all wrapped up in an absolutely killer recipe for chicken chasseur. Oh, and cling-film, of course.

I was thinking about the bookshop thing at lunchtime today while I was poking about in the local-to-my-office branch of leading UK book chain Waterstone's. It's actually next to the London School of Economics and so the stock has more than a slight preponderance of books about, well, economics, but it also has an eclectic selection of remainders and I guess there's some entertainment value to be gained from looking at the fiction titles they expect to be able to sell to student economists. But for some reason it occurred to me that I'm probably one of the few people I know who's never bought a book from Amazon, and that's partly been because of the lack of a decent internet connection but more it's because I actually like the bookshop experience so much. And the Fantasy Centre shop that James describes is indeed one of the best.

It was not ever thus, mind. That gives a slightly false impression because it's always been a really good second-hand science fiction and fantasy bookshop – or at the very least so long as I've known about it – but it hasn't always been quite as welcoming as James describes. When I first encountered it, before present-day co-owner Erik came on board, I think they were altogether more cautious about their clientele. The traditional greeting, usually uttered within a couple of minutes of a customer entering the shop was, ''You do know it's all science fiction, don't you?'' There was some justification for this as to this day people wander in, scan the shelves for ten or fifteen minutes, and then ask whether there's a section for books on tree surgery or Uzbek detective stories in Urdu translation, but if you did know that it was a science fiction specialist store then this approach didn't exactly make you feel at home.

And then there was the collectors' section at the back of the shop – where the pulp magazines are on James's plan – and if you strayed into that there would be yet more questions. ''Umm, you do know this is the collectors' section, don't you?'' would come first and if you replied that, yes, you did, and you didn't immediately flee back to the cheap Fred Pohl paperbacks, you'd get as a follow-up, "Umm, some of these are quite expensive.'' I don't know, maybe it wasn't so bad if you looked as if you might be prepared to shell out two or three quid on a 1950s US Galaxy, and maybe I didn't and that was the problem, but somehow I rather got the impression that any purchase I actually managed to make was something of a victory.

It's not like that any more, and as James say, it's a friendly store where the proprietors will offer you a coffee and talk books and science fiction and, yes, sometimes fandom too. Erik has passed on several good items of fan material that come their way, items that they can't really sell but which they know have value to the right people and which they want to pass on to those people. It's still pretty quiet much of the time, it being the kind of shop that's almost certainly suffered with the rise of the internet, but other days I'll be in there and UK anthologist Steve Jones will drop in, and then Andy Porter, and then a long-term customer from France... and then that bloke that nobody knows who pokes about a bit for half an hour and then leaves with a dozen paperbacks or maybe asks if they have any books on sheet-metal working.

They used to have good parties too. Typically it'd be a Friday evening after the shop had technically shut. There would be beer and genial company and maybe the odd passing celebrity too. It was remarkably convivial atmosphere, not least because the conversation would inevitably turn to sf and if it did and you ever got into a disagreement you would almost certainly be able to find the text that you needed to settle the dispute. And then dark fantasy writer Gerald Suster would show up, and we would have the same conversation we had every time where he asked me who my favourite author was and I said I didn't know, 'cos I didn't really have a favourite, and then I'd make something up – a different person each time – and Gerald would try to light a cigarette rather ineptly and I would wonder again about the wisdom of allowing uncoordinated people to have matches around so much pulp paper, and then Claire and I and Pat McMurray and a few others would go and have dinner at the Korean restaurant up the road. Funs days.

You know, I don't think I've been to the Fantasy Centre for a while. Maybe I'll go tomorrow.

Martin Morse Wooster, Silver Spring MD

Many thanks for Challenger #25. I always like reading Mike Resnick's diaries, and the account of his adventures in Los Angeles was, as always enjoyable. I've never seen the downtown Disney in Orlando, but I thought the one in Anaheim was pretty – one glance at those flowers told me I wasn't on the East Coast anymore – but synthetic. (When I go shopping, I really don't want to have a pop soundtrack undergirding my purchases, this grumpy baby boomer said.) As for Marie Callender's (not "Callendar's"), we used to have them out here, but the one I went to turned into a Brazilian churruscaria (that's Portuguese for "Bring me some meat!") place years ago. The pies were indeed quite good.

I'm glad you reprinted your Alfred Bester interview. I remember very little of the one conversation I had with Bester, except that the man was a professional. And one of the duties of being a professional writer is being nice to your fans. Of course fuggheads should be dismissed, but being a pro means being polite to everyone. Bester certainly knew that; so do Fredrik Pohl, Gene Wolfe, Brian Aldiss, and Terry Pratchett. It's the insecure minor writers who impose unreasonable demands on con committees and are rude and obnoxious in general. These temper tantrums are one reason they're minor writers.

In our genre, maybe, but that judgment could be due to their violating the social expectations of the science fiction community. Only a very few SF writers can act like snobs and get away with it. However, I've seen major mainstream writers – Saul Bellow, for instance – behave petulantly and impatiently towards readers. That I ascribe to the distance imposed by genius; Bellow, after all, won the Nobel Prize. No, I must disagree here: the only duty of a writer is to write – the only duty of an artist is to tell the truth.

I also enjoyed your stories from your work as a public defender. Why did you get into this line of work? What do you enjoy the most about your job? I bet your workload is horrendous and that many of the people you represent are indeed scum. But I also bet you get a great deal of pleasure out of helping poor people who have indeed been shafted by the system or by overzealous prosecutors.

I picked up my interest in criminal law from To Kill a Mockingbird – providentially, on the tube as I write – and The Defenders, the great TV drama of the early sixties. My main satisfaction from the work comes from helping normal people who have blundered into trouble – fallen into addiction or written bad checks or engaged in petty larceny because they're broke. It's also enlightening and perversely diverting to deal with sociopaths. How better to appreciate normality than by comprehending aberration – and how better to appreciate the oneness of humanity than by seeing how little aberration deviates from the norm? "There's only one make of man, not two …"

Curt Phillips delivered a worthy tribute to Bob Tucker. I remember Tucker from the period in the late 1970s when I was a Midwest fan and took part in a few "Smoooths!" at a Chambanacon or a Windycon. I've read some of Tucker's fan writing, and have a copy of the Incompleat Bob Tucker. Phillips is right that Tucker's fannish legacy is reminding us that there's far more to being a fan than writing letters to prozines complaining about authors with PhD's who don't know the correct melting point for busbars. But the wrong lesson to learn from Tucker's writing is that it's not fannish to be serious or passionate about SF or science. We should all try to be good writers and witty ones, but we should also realize that there's far more to writing than contemplative navel-gazing.

Rich Dengrove, Alexandria VA

I just read the product of your DUFF trip, The Antipodal Route. I enjoyed it. I thought I knew something about Australia, but I obviously don't.

RUNNING TO AUSTRALIA. Guy, just think: now you're world famous. OK, so they don't know too much about you in Bhutan or Tanna Tuva, but many do know you in Australia. If you take the right positive attitude, you can see yourself as being well-known as Bush, Jr. Of course, if Bush, Jr. were in the limo, I doubt anyone would say: "Who's that in there with Guy."

NO PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK. It's not exactly true that a stranger wouldn't help you in the U.S. if you needed it. I live in an apartment house, a living arrangement not conducive to friendship. What makes it worse is that it is inhabited by every nationality known to man. The place is a veritable United Nations.

I am on talking terms with only two of my neighbors, and passably friendly with only one other. However, when some trouble happens, everyone closes ranks and tries to help. When a fire happens, when the roof caves in, people are trying to help one another. I would imagine, given the dangers of something like a Hanging Rock, Americans would be helpful there too. It's friendliness in between emergencies that would be the problem in the States.

THE FAR SIDE OF THE EARTH. Ah, Hurricanes for the Australians. Those Nawlinian drinks are pretty powerful. When I was in New Orleans in the early '80s, I went to Pat O'Brien's Bar [where the Hurricane was created]. I could have gotten $2 back for the glass if I had been sufficiently sober to hand it back to the waiter. However, I wasn't. I bet others weren't either. That is why so many households have them as mementos. Hurricanes are so strong they remind me of the drink Old Factory Whistle. One shot and you're through for the day.

THE EASTER BILBY. My wife has seen marsupials on TV and, as an old horse woman, she doesn't trust them. While they are exotic and you like to look at them, she thinks they are prone to being temperamental. Maybe that's why you weren't able to report about anyone who has trained marsupials to do tricks.

Didn't you read about 'Ron Jeremy'?

FOOTY. Footy a family game? That the women decided to shop rather than see it says it all. It sounds like Soccer (Footy?) in England, which, as we all know, gets violent. I know the rules prohibit violence to such an extent that you would presume it had been eliminated. However, I am always dubious about the extent to which rules are practiced. By comparison, I bet, our football players are wimps; they wear scads of protective gear.

BELLO CAMILLO. So your Australian friends are friends with Maoris, who come ultimately from New Zealand. The Australians were only a relatively short time ago supposed to be a racially and ethnically centered people. It was impossible for an oriental to immigrate to Australia. Now, Australia is very racially and ethnically tolerant. Of course, I doubt Australia is as tolerant as the U.S. Once the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) ruled the U.S. Now, a friend has cued me there was a sea change when no one was looking. She says that there is a new racial, ethnic elite that rules America; and she's part of it. She pointed out she is Welsh, Scottish, Jewish, English, Irish, Italian and German. The new elite, she says, is not the WASP, but the All-American MUTT.

It will prob-ably take a little longer for Australia to be ruled by the All-Australian MUTT.

BLUE MOUNTAINS. Having seen pictures of Normal Lindsay's nudes, I have to agree they have flesh on them, unlike the nudes we are used to. Also, they are more athletic and graceful. I don't know about their intelligence or their depth, however.

Taral Wayne, Toronto, Ont, Canada

Lost Causes... I think I must be the current record holder for Fan Hugo losses. It used to be Stu Shiffman, with nine non-consecutive nominations and loss es, but then either the ninth or tenth time he came in with the largest number of ballots for once. Curiously, it was rather a while after Stu had started to drift away from SF fandom, when his art didn't seem to be much in evidence.

At the moment I lag far behind Stu's record – six nominations and losses – but so far as I know that's as bad as it gets. Of course, plenty of fan editors, writers, and artists have had more nominations, but I think one or more wins as well. Does any of your readers have enough time on their hands to ransack their own program books to compile actual stats?

As for the perqs of a "mere" nomination. Well... the pin is nifty. I have nowhere to wear them mind you. Nobody outside of fannish circles knows what they are, and anyone in fannish circles locally would probably think me terribly stuck up if I appeared with a rank of pins stuck to my shirt collar like military awards on Herman Goering's uniform.

I keep mine on a wicker cowboy hat with a button collection.

This leads me to the second perq mentioned. The terrific parties. I've never been to one, sorry. I can't afford travel, hotel bills, and worldcon memberships, so I've missed all those terrific parties where I might be able to rub shoulders with the Fabulous and talk about their next two book contracts.

Nor have I ever sat in an award ceremony. To be honest, I have to ask myself if I'd want to. From what I've heard of the awards they sound absolutely hideous -- like the Oscars, an exercise in self-love and time-wastingly obvious statements. For those who love such attention, it may be worth it when in due course you mount the podium to thank all the little people who made this possible, and when you have your photograph taken with other winners, but why are the other couple of thousand people there? Do fans like being toadies?

I think I'd rather have my Hugo mailed to me, and that all the flattery be in print.

The fact is, nominees are pretty much forgotten by the end of the worldcon. You never see their names in print again. Unlike the winners, you can't look them up in each and every worldcon's program book, you have to have last year's. And every year's. Otherwise, fame is fleeting.

As for reforming the system. I can't be done as long as the Hugos are voted by the membership of the worldcon. The damn fools are science fiction fans, if you can believe it! Nine-tenths have probably never seen a fanzine unless we count Locus or Ansible. From the results of recent years I have to assume that for most of the voters, fan art is what you see in convention art shows by artists who hope to become pro and are practicing doing Analog covers. I suppose a fan writer to your average worldcon member is whoever's name you see most often, which is not surprisingly the editor of the newsletter you're reading -- the only fanzine you likely do read.

I don't advocate a peer system to replace the Hugos. That's been tried, with no great success it seems to me. The FAAn awards from years ago were a brave try, but simply never managed the cachet of the Hugos, for obvious reasons. The more recent attempt to revive the FAAns has run up against the ugly truth that fanzine fandom has grown too old, too tired, and its small numbers diminished by division into very tiny cliques. As I see it, the FAAns aren't meant to be taken seriously and shouldn't be, which is fine. People have fun with them. But the Hugos they aren't and can't be.

The Hugos are with us and we can't be rid of them – like Oscars, like American Idol, and like presidential elections. They don't work but the have acquired a life of their own. We learn to serve them in hope they will serve us if we are lucky.

Lloyd Penney, Etobicoke, ON, CANADA

First of all, congratulations on another Hugo nomination! This might be your year, you never know. I honestly expected to see a few Japanese names on that ballot, given that there should be more Japanese fans than American fans at the Worldcon this year. No matter; here's to seeing some new names on the final results. There's you, Chris Garcia, John Hertz, Joseph Major and his great book on Heinlein…fanzine fandom is making its mark on the Hugos once again.

Excellent Taral cover, especially for the colour. Colour always makes the front of the zine, and adds to expectations inside.

The Democrats have taken the Senate, but the White House is, IMHO, theirs for the taking. As you say, there are good candidates, but the Republicans, with their abuses of not only American documents of basic rights, but human rights through the Geneva convention, have left a very bad taste in the mouths of the American electorate and the world in general. Can Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama make America a friend to the world again? Or has Dubya ruined America's reputation as a paragon of rights and diplomacy? We won't find out for a while, but I don't think John McCain or Rudy Giuliani are what the US needs right now … people would expect more of the same, and they do not need that at all.

So many SF people we respect who are in their higher years … Ray Bradbury, 4SJ, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Only Isaac Asimov's books take up more space on our bookshelves. If only he was healthy enough to travel … we could give him the respect due him the way so many gave it to Bradbury and Ackerman at LAcon IV.

I trust you noted the Pulitzer Prize awarded Bradbury this past April. Not a Hugo, but nice.

Speaking of the L.A. Worldcon … I had hopes of finding out where the CFG suite was, but we never did find it. We ran into the Simses a few times, but we never did find it … no matter, there was parties by the dozen, and enough food to ruin your diet and send your blood sugar count through the ceiling. Greg Benford's article reminds me that lately, there's been articles in the papers and on television about cellphones not really interfering with the electronics in planes and in hospitals. It's just a case of spurious stories becoming fact through constant retelling, or someone being overly cautious about what might happen, maybe.

I never met Alfred Bester, but his memory lived on with his name being used for a Babylon 5 character. I've already told this story elsewhere … when fans raved about Walter Koenig's performance as PsiCop Alfred Bester on various episodes of Babylon 5 (as I did), one close female friend of mine wondered aloud where JMS got the name. I grabbed the Alfred Bester paperbacks I have off my bookshelf, and her eyes nearly fell out of her head. I explained all to her, and being mostly a media SF fan, she learned a lot that day. I have to admit, though, that not being a comics fan, I didn't know that Bester has written for comic books. There's someone else I wish could be around to see what his work has done for the field.

In this modern age, there are as always benefits and losses. One loss we suffer through is the loss of many good bookstores through the sterile big-box bookstores which offer some selection, but no adventure, which is what I found in independent bookstores and in the good used book places. The tall rows of shelves, the musty paper scent … they always offered some mystery. What shall we find? I have an account with a used book store to the south of us, but in Toronto, we are lucky that we still have a science fiction book store, Bakka-Phoenix.

The canals of Mars … such a romantic idea, signs of a civilization not far from us, an idea that revived the romance of exploration and travel to far lands. The attraction Mars had for us quickly left when the canals were revealed to be mere markings, faint ones that may never have been there. Sometimes, reality intrudes where it's not wanted.

Al Gore was in Toronto recently doing his Powerpoint presentation, A Inconvenient Truth, and it was the hottest ticket in town, sold out in minutes. So many Canadians are sick of our government ducking out of its commitments on the Kyoto Agreement, and for gladhanding about so-called serious pollution reductions. Look for David Suzuki on the net … he has become Canada's loudest and most intelligent voice on reducing pollution and global warming.

Milt Stevens, Simi Valley, CA

Your courtroom vignettes were the best item In Challenger #25. Your courtroom stories usually are the best item in any given issue. Even though your venue is a long way from Southern California in a number of ways, things seem to be pretty much the same all over. The same problems at a different address.

Again I marvel at your visits to Watts Towers. I was the analytical officer for that area of Los Angeles back in 1970-71, and I've never been there. South-Central Los Angeles was pretty bad back then, and Watts was the worst part of South-Central. Things have undoubtedly changed since then. The endless stream of Hispanics have been moving into South-Central and forcing the Blacks out. The Blacks have the choice of either leaving under their own power or feet first. Politicians have noticed and decried all this hostility between Hispanics and Blacks. Which doesn't change a darned thing. These two groups just plain don't like each other.

Mike Resnick's "L.A.con IV Diary" gives a glimpse of life in the pro lane. Not surprisingly, I was never anywhere near Mike Resnick during the entire course of the convention. After reading Mike's account of the convention, I am now aware of another reason why I would never make it as a pro writer. I couldn't eat that much no matter what. I only eat two meals a day, and usually they aren't terribly large meals. The only reason I ever ate lunch was because they gave a lunch break at work. My ex-wife once commented that I eat like I'm fueling a machine. As long as I get about the right number of calories at about the right times, I don't much care what I eat. That's more-or-less true, since there are some foods I definitely don't like. Aside from that, I am fueling a machine.

As Greg Benford points out, there are definite risks out there in the real world, and we can't possibly avoid all of them. Personally, I fly much less than I once did. It isn't the possibility of terrorists I fear but rather the certainty of homeland security. I figure I'm a very small target on a very big planet. Terrorists might get me, but the odds are against it. Other people could get me as well. I could be walking down a street and a stray bullet from a robbery or a drive-by shooting could kill me dead. A driver could lose control of his vehicle and run me down on the sidewalk. I could probably worry about such things night and day if I wanted to worry about something. Such thoughts occur to me, but I don't really worry about them. I figure there is no point to worrying about things I can't possibly prevent. What me worry?

Robert Kennedy, Camarillo CA

Thank you for #25.

Cold Case Files (A&E) presented the Michael Crowe case for the third time on January 7, 2007. If you haven't seen it and they do it again, try not to miss it.

Richard Dengrove's review of Joe Major's Heinlein's Children: The Juveniles also was excellent. If there is any justice the book will win the HUGO. So, hopefully you and anyone else voting for the HUGOs will vote for it as #1 for Best Related Book.

"What Scientologist's Believe About mental Health – and Why You Should Care" by Mary Ann van Hartesveldt was outstanding.

Your continuing photos from your trip are very much appreciated. This time the Watts Towers. I lived in Pasadena (Los Angeles County) for 47 years before moving to Camarillo (Ventura County). But, I've never been to the Watts Towers. Heck, it took my then wife to get me to the Huntington Library in San Marino and it was only a few miles from where we lived. Any more pictures from the WorldCon itself?

Your continuing reports on your life as a Public Defender are also very much appreciated. I'm going to copy the latest (Hebrews 13.3 – Three Stories from Court) and send them to two or three friends with full credit to you and an explanation about
Challenger. Well, I will not have to explain very much as they know about Science Fiction Fanzines (even if they are not SF Fans as such) and about my writing letters to them.

Concerning the case of "The Empty Man"­ I found
Challenger #14 and reread your commentary. I am unable to make a judgment about the interrogation as I don't have enough information concerning the case. How about furnishing more information? What was the final outcome, if there has been one? Was the dramatization on A&E on one of their Cold Case Files, or was it a separate program?

I understand the Empty Man has been granted a new trial.

Another fine issue and one of these years you will have a HUGO.

John Purcell

Congratulations on another Best Fanzine Hugo nod, Guy. After reading this issue and perusing past issues on-line, I can understand why. You are producing a top-notch zine with fine art (lovely cover by Taral, by the by) and photos to accompany the articles, which are many and varied. Lots of interesting material herein. Overall, a splendid issue.

This is such a huge zine that it took me quite a bit of time to read it. Most fanzines lately seem to hover in the 30-page range, and then you clock in with this 76-page monster, which is a throwback to those days of yore when massive fanzines were produced on a regular/semi-regular basis. When Challenger #25 put a new dent in my mailbox, memories came banging back about those huge issues of the Haskell-era Runes, plus Energumen,
Mota, Granfalloon, Mimosa, Mainstream, and others that regularly exceeded 50 or 60 pages an issue. I wonder if the smaller average size of modern-day zines is not only a reflection of the smaller number of people producing zines, but is in addition to the technology factor that makes fanzine production easier and faster. It probably is; still, it makes me wonder. This sounds kind of like a fanzine article to me...

My wife and older daughter are Criminal Justice majors over at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, and so your article "Hebrews 13:3" piqued their interest when I told them you were a public defender in real life. Penny – the 22 year old – is a victim studies major, and your third story about the Aggravated Incest case grabbed her interest. If not this semester – since it's almost over – but maybe next year, maybe you could provide an interview or additional material for papers they will have to produce for classes. Of course, it all depends on which courses they will be in, but this might be a Good Idea for primary source material. No rush on this one, but I figured I'd mention it since your article jarred this idea loose in my brain. It certainly sounds good to me.

Great interview with Alfred Bester. As you know, I re-read The Stars My Destination during the Holiday break this past year, and thoroughly enjoyed it again. It is simply just one well-told, thoroughly entertaining novel. I forget off-hand where I read this - not sure if it was in the latest SNAPS distribution, and Joyce Katz wrote about it, or was it Robert Sabella in his fanzine? gotta double-check – but 2006 was the 50th Anniversary of the publication of The Stars My Destination. It would have been very appropriate for a special edition with retrospective commentary by various authors to be published. This book consistently pops up on fans' lists of favorite all-time sf novels. It is one crackling good read.

Now I'm getting the urge to re-read The Demolished Man. Maybe over the summer. That may have to wait, though, since I just checked out four Alastair Reynolds books out of the TAMU circulating library to read, and I've started with Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, which is a lot of fun. The other books I checked out were from his Revelation Space
series, so I'm looking forward to reading them. This is my first exposure to Reynolds. So far, I am not disappointed.

Back to the zine. James Bacon's "The Greatest Bookshop of Them All" made me nostalgic for the used bookstore runs Lee Pelton, Steve Glennon and I used to do once a month back in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the mid-70s. I love used bookstores. Of course, my interests are more eclectic nowadays, but I always check out the science fiction and fantasy shelves first. There aren't many used bookstores in College Station-Bryan, I am afraid; Carousel Books closed down recently (it was in a shitty little strip mall over by Post Oak Mall), and that was the only other used bookstore in College Station besides Half-Price Books, which is a wonderful place to spend an evening and 50-bucks at a drop. Good stuff there, though. Up in Bryan, there are only two used bookstores: BCS Books & Comics and Cavitt Corner Used Books & Collectibles. Most of the "bookstores" in these "Twin Cities" (ick! they are not! especially not to this Minn-stf boy) cater to this college town, with four chains carrying texts, supplies, and TAMU bric-a-brac and clothing. *sigh* Such is life in a college town.

Speaking of books, John Hertz reviewed one of my favorite Arthur C. Clarke books, The City and the Stars. That novel is full of those *ghosh-whow* moments that simply make me stop,
put down the book for a minute, and soak in or digest what I had just read. Clarke can paint such a vivid picture and infuse it with an energy that is still poetic, which is probably why he
is one of my favorite SF writers of all time. Such an incredibly talented writer, and such an incredible output over time. Love his work.

Funny thing, glancing at Rich Dengrove's review of Heinlein's Children, I never was a big fan of Heinlein. His shorter fiction was fine, and some of his books are definitely fun to read - the juveniles, of course - but I never cared for his huge, sprawling tomes from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Oh, well. Everybody has their own reading tastes.

I think I'll call it a wrap by thanking Curt Phillips and Charlie Williams for the tribute to our dear friend, Bob Tucker. Even though Bob passed away seven months ago now - has it really been that long? – the thought of his loss still gives me pause. Our fannish heritage is so much richer thanks to Bob's efforts, and for that we thank him, and we'll miss him. The upcoming NASFiC has been dedicated and renamed in his honor. That is a fitting tribute, too, but I think Bob would have been very amused by the gesture. He was one cool fella. I hoist my coffee mug in a non-alcoholic Smooooth to his memory.

Grand zine, Guy. Thank you much, and I look forward to the next one.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Richard Dengrove, Alexandria, VA, USA

I loved Challenger 25. Of course, I loved most my article "The Rise and Fall of the Canals of Mars." It was a great masterpiece if I don't say so myself – modestly.

On the other hand, my article "Heinlein's Children: a Review" was a great travesty. It would have been no big deal if, once, I had confused Heinlein's novel Tunnel in the Sky with Time for the Stars; if, once, I had written it Tunnel for the Stars. That could have been forgiven. The problem is that I did it five times and then got it right once. When someone criticized me for making the mistake, I argued that my ideas remain valid. However, that was before I realized how often I had gotten the title wrong.

Also, I got wrong that Farmer in the Sky was set in the asteroid belt. No, it was obviously set on the Moon of Jupiter Ganymede. This should teach me to re-check my facts and spelling.

Not even the cyberpunk novelists of the ‘80s made as glaring a mistake. They did make a big one. Joe Major, in the "Cyber-Punks," is right that they extrapolated from technology current in its time without even extrapolating new technology.

Yet they would have done one good thing for science fiction if only other writers had carried the ball. I suspect regular science fiction has concerned itself too much with elites, military men and other movers and shakers of the future; and has ignored the rest of the population. Cyberpunk gave the future an Underbelly; something needed for a more complete society. Maybe someone could give science fiction a Middle Class as well.

The Cyberpunks may have been wrong; but, in his diary of LA Con, I don't think Mike Resnick made any mistake when he went to the Gene Autry museum. The Western is a part of us that has been lost. I remember, during the ‘50s, when the Western was popular. In fact, I remember a time when the majority of TV shows were Westerns. The past had a myth then as well as facts.

However, no longer. Periodically, there are attempts at Westerns, but they don't come off right. Part of the problem is that the real Western is un-p.c. Even when, as I remember, one hero was an Apache with pre-Hippy long hair.

The big problem, though, is that we don't want to deal with our feelings about the past. We did in the ‘40s through the ‘60s. Costume dramas were big then. The Civil War as a hobby was bigger then. Now poof.

As Mike Resnick is right about the Western, Mary Ann van Hartesveldt is spot on about Scientology. I suspect the reason it opposes psychiatry is that psychiatrists gave ammo for L. Ron Hubbard's second wife, Sara Northrup, to divorce him. I will have to re-read Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies; but if I remember correctly, they considered him "hopelessly insane."

Alex Slate is right that there are several variants on the Yiddish word for dust collector. I am sure his "tschotschke" is one of them. I have often seen it written as "tsotske." However, my father always pronounced it "chotchka."


Sheryl Birkhead and Lawrence Zeilinger