Friday, February 16, 2007

Challenger #25

The correspondents quoted below comment on a number of GHLIII zines – Challenger #23 and #24, The Antipodal Route, my DUFF report, The Fantastic Route, my zine about the ’06 worldcon, and The Zine Dump #13, my zine about … zines.


Fred Argoff, James Bacon, Greg Bridges, Randy Byers, Naomi Fisher, Brad Foster, Bruce Gillespie, Mike Glyer, John Hertz, Barry Hunter, Ben Indick, Sue Jones, Ruth Judkowitz, Arnie Katz, Mike Kennedy, Alan Stewart, Geri Sullivan, Mary Ann van Hartesveldt, Alan White, Doug Wirth, Lawrence Zeilinger, Michelle Zellich.

Alex R. Slate

[Re the proper spelling of an impossible word meaning “knick-knack”:]
You almost got it right the first time, just add a "k" -- it's “tschotschke” -- actually there are a couple other variants as well.

Susan R. Higgins (a.k.a. Sunshine)

Thanks to [Challenger and] The Zine Dump, I can keep up on the world of fantasy and such where I love to live in my mind, heart, body and soul. May we all have a real life made out of our dreams, that become reality, filled with love, hope and good health. Love to all you guys and gals who made my adventures at past conventions (where we have met) some of the most enjoyable experiences ever.

Julie Dalia

I am sitting at my desk after having read the story of your friend Cindy. It made me cry. The whole fanzine is heart-wrenching.

The John Guidry pictures made me really really want to come home. Period.

Julie is a singer, artist, and New Orleans native.

E.B. Frohvet, Ellicott City, MD, USA

Congratulations on your 1000th fan publication. And likewise on being overlooked again for the Lost Causes.
[Eeb means, the fan Hugos.] I’m beginning to think that not getting a Hugo is more of a distinction than receiving one from the blind fools who vote them. This appears an apt moment to raise again the notion of refusing a nomination. Publically, loudly, with one’s reasons on full display. I know you would like to have have one, but at this point, you’re merely propping up a failed system by participating.

Not surprisingly, I disagree. Aside from the old saw that being nominated is itself an honor, being nominated also carries substantial benefits – a cool rocket pin, great seating at the ceremony and access to two of the best parties at worldcon, the pre-Hugo reception and the post-Hugo nominees’ bash. I’ve put a lot into Challenger and consider such company part of the reward. I love being a nominee and hope I continue to be one ... and eventually that I get a trophy to take home. Perhaps when the Bird of Paradise flies out of my ass.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that I’m blind to the eye-piercing faults with the fan awards, most obviously the fact that inertia is the strongest factor in determining most winners and has overcome deservedness time and time and time again. And yes, I mean the L.A. Con IV winners, all of whom are nifty and talented people and none of whom merited this year’s awards.

So a final yes, there are myriad injustices with the fan Hugos. But quit the game? No way. I live and I’ll die hoping to feel that Bird of Paradise flappin’.

As long as we’re on politics, I decline to be the voice of contradiction for Challenger, for much the same reason I refused to be the voice of reason for Fosfax. Tim Lane once called me a “leftist”; I look forward to seeing what creative insult you can heap on me.

Sorry, but I think you’re an okay guy.

Jeffrey Copeland: Since we’re on a roll, the 84-year-old incumbent Comptroller of Maryland, running for another four year term, lost in the Democratic primary to a candidate who billed himself as “the real Democrat.” It did not help that the incumbent, long noted for putting his mouth in gear with engaging his brain, had in recent years insulted women, immigrants, the Korean-American population, did I mention women?

Chris Barkley: It’s possible, in the days before Political Correctness, that Campbell argued in favor of slavery just for the sake of being contrary. The late Robert Adams once started a panel by declaring that the human race deserved to die off, because we had polluted our gene pool by preserving “non-survival” types. Donald Kingsbury received a Hugo nomination, back in the day when it actually meant something, with a novel in which cannibalism was the chief source of protein.

Perhaps we should re-word Dr. Benford’s aphorism as “You shouldn’t write anything unless you enjoy the process of writing it.” It’s that treacherous word “fun” I have a problem with. Great literature, or even great SF, can be stimulating or compelling without being “fun.” Silverberg’s Dying Inside is not jolly reading.

Peggy Ranson: May I recommend pigeon pie? There must be someplace locally that will sell you a .410 shotgun. I doubt anyone is enforcing the local game laws …

Terry Jeeves: Actually the constant-flush straddle toilet is a very old form, dating back centuries. All it requires is gravity and a water source.

Thanks for sharing.

So, dude, how did you like the U.S. Open [Tennis Championships]? I picked both singles winners, though picking Roger Federer took no great leap of imagination.

I was very pleased that Andy Roddick fought his way to the finals and gave Federer a decent run for the roses. After all, James Scott Connors, King of Earth and Master of All Magnetic Forces, was his coach. Apparently he taught Roddick that you’re only as great as you think you are, a lesson for the ages, and the right to say “shit” is the right to play tennis!

They say Maria Sharapova is “arrogant” and doesn’t have any friends on tour. The great ones don’t need friends, they can buy as many friends as needed. I rather like her, and not just because she’s tall and blonde and pretty. She can whack a tennis ball.

Great athletes, like great artists or great writers or great anything, often seem arrogant, because they are so focused on their craft. Pretenders to greatness often are arrogant, because they think that appearing great is the same as being great. Anyway, I like Sharapova too, because she’s tall – 6’3”, right? – and blonde and pretty, and I love the squeak she makes when she drills that ball across the net.

Michael Bishop c/o Challenger

(A letter to Joe Green)

I never met or even sold a story or article to John W. Campbell, but I always regarded him as an eminence within the SF field and aspired both to meet and to sell to him, and so I want to thank you for your clearly observed, recalled, and written memoir of the five days that you hosted him in your home on his trip to Cocoa Beach in 1970, not too long after I published my first sale in Galaxy (not, alas, Analog).

You’ve painted a memorable portrait of the man and one that I will therefore remember for a good while. I was shocked, by the way, to learn that Campbell – John, as you by rights refer to him – died shortly after turning 61. When he died, I was only about 25 myself and viewed him with some awe as a person of great and venerable age, and probably imagined him at least in his late seventies and probably even 85 or so.

It’s chastening, to say the least, to report to you that I turned 61 in November and still foolishly think of myself as at the doorstep of old age rather than well over its threshold. In any case, it was good of you to look back upon this episode and to share it with the readers of The Bulletin, many of whom, I’m sure, will read it with the same bittersweet pleasure that I did.

Joe’s piece on Campbell was reprinted in The SFWA Bulletin

Martin Morse Wooster, Silver Spring, MD, USA

I read The Antipodal Route and thought you did a good job. Three comments:

* I know what you mean about preserving the noises of Australia. I spent a spare day in Adelaide going to a nearby national park, where I walked around listening to birds and relaxing. I stopped in the local branch of the Australian Wilderness Society and said that I wanted to buy a CD with birds on it but I did not want New Age music or guitars. Well, what happened when I got home but I got a CD! I don't think I've heard this CD twice.

* As for flying, I'm not scared of it like you are but dislike it and try to take the train when I can. However, when I flew to Australia crammed into my economy class seat, I couldn't sleep because the woman next to me decided to spend the whole 16 hours reading. I didn't mind her reading a Bujold novel. But having to stay awake while she read slash fiction was a little too much...

Especially if she read it aloud

* All right, why don't Australians root for their sports teams? Does this mean Something Dirty?

To quote Family Guy, “that means it’s good.”

Anthony Lewis

If you'd like to see
our trip report

Sue Jones

Thanks for the photo of the Watts Towers, Guy [e-sent along with The Fantastic Route] – I'd seen pictures of them before, but with you in the shot I got a better sense of scale. (They're BIG!)

Rusty Burke

Glad you folks got a chance to visit the Howard House. We just celebrated the 20th anniversary of our trip this year -- along with Howard's Centennial. I'll be going to the World Fantasy Con in November in Austin, and leading a bus tour to Cross Plains.

Curt Phillips

I decided to just open up [The Fantastic Route] and read one or two paragraphs, just to get a taste, you understand - just *one or two little paragraphs* - and wound up reading the whole thing. A very nice Sunday morning read, Guy. Thank you very much.

Richard Lynch, Gaithersburg, MD, USA

On aging pets: “Thirteen, deaf, her eyes shining with cataracts, Jesse took a wrong step.” We have a cat that’s going to be 19 years old in January. She’s having some health problems, and has more or less recovered from a moderately bad stroke three years ago. But she still acts like a kitten and is enjoying life.

On road trip side trips: You mention that the Robert E. Howard house consisted of five small rooms. That sounds like what we found the home of Carl Sandburg to be when wee visited it on the way home from Iowa a year and a half ago. It took all of five minutes to see everything, but it was still worth the detour to get there.

On roadside vegetation: “We stopped to walk among the towering saguaro cacti, the old men of the desert, wrinkled arms raised in vegetative salute.” On the way to Ventura, Nicki saw her first cactus-in-the-wild, but it wasn’t anywhere near as impressive as the saguaro you saw. It was some prickly pears, growing peacefully alongside the highway near a rock wall.

Rich refers to the photo with which I open this Challenger – included with the printed version of The Fantastic Route.

On out-of-the-way places: “We had to find the fanzine room, which L.A.Con had established in a distant corner of the Hilton.” Milt Stevens told me that he had asked for it to be in the Hilton so the room could be kept open for parties in the evenings. That worked pretty well for those who know about the room, but for most of the convention it was if the room didn’t exist. I respect Milt’s decision, but I don’t agree with it. The fanzine area gets much more traffic and interest when it’s located in the concourse area of the convention. There probably are some budding fanzine fans out there but we may never find them if we keep sacrificing outreach for convenience.

A related problem was that all the fan-oriented programming was also in the Hilton instead of alongside the rest of the programming in the convention center. The result was that hardly any fan program item had an audience of more than ten people. Worldcons lately have been ghettoizing fan-related programming. Even the filkers had a better location than where the fan programming area was.

A definite generation gap seems to have appeared in fandom, which Milt himself articulates in his own LOC, coming up. Fanzine fandom is indeed in a ghetto – but that was true even at Noreascon, where the zine lounge was located front-&-center in the Hynes. The truth is simple: fanzines are the province of our generation and those before it. Younger fans communicate by blog.

[And what, pray tell, is this? ;-p ]

Robert Kennedy, Camarillo CA,USA

Thank you for sending me your
[L.A.Con IV] report. I printed it out and read the whole thing. That was an incredible trip you and Rosy took.

Some comments:

The Whole Wide World is an outstanding movie. I didn't realize it is on DVD and may order a copy.

It's too bad you didn't get to Santa Barbara. I like to go there a few times a year and have lunch at Moby Dick restaurant on Stearns Wharf. Also, when I have visitors we often go to Santa Barbara. Well, it's only 50 miles from where I live so I guess that it is not a big deal. But, what's a "Kinsey Milhone tour"?

In a subsequent e-mail you acknowledge Sue Grafton’s glorious mystery series – but averred that tours are no longer given! “A” is for Aghast!

The name of the Advent publisher is George W. Price. I'm surprised that you don't know him as he has been in Fandom for a very long time. I'm sure that you know that he and Advent published Joe Major's Heinlein's Children: The Juveniles.

You’ll find a review of Joe’s tome in this issue. It must be nominated for the 2007 Hugo in the “Related Book” category.

I nominated and voted for John Scalzi for the Campbell as well as Best Novel for Old Man's War. When he won the Campbell I thought that he had a good chance for Best Novel. It was not to be and I think he came in third.

Yes, I agree about Dave Langford. He should decline further nominations. He should have done so a number of years ago.

Dave’ s dominance in the Fan Writer Hugo category is due less to his superb qualities than to the cadre which devotes itself to his annual victory. It’s so far from being cute anymore that it isn’t cute anymore. Dave has stated that fandom should give other fan writers a chance – for the sake of the awards, he should insist on it. Besides which, he’s won a pro Hugo. Shouldn’t that disqualify him from fan writer contention?

One of these years Challenger will win Best Fanzine. But, I would also like to see Alexiad get nominated and win.

Amen amen amen.

I agree that Drama Long Form and Short Form should be changed to between movies and TV. I have said as such for a couple of years and that the TV should be for a series, not just an episode. Maybe that would have helped an excellent series like Farscape.

I went to Hoover Dam as a very young person with my parents. There is a 8mm film of me driving a tour boat that, according to my parents, made other passengers angry. I believe that at the time it was called Boulder Dam because FDR would not let it be named after a Republican. Well, considering Hoover's mishandling of the Depression perhaps FDR was correct.

2,901.1 miles traveled on your trip. That's a lot of miles, motels, and gas.

And people, and sights, and experiences. I love traveling by car ... as long as the roads are unfamiliar and the riding is smooth.

Elizabeth Stewart

Great photos! That's a mighty fine... cactus, there, Guy. ;)

[Robert E. Howard's] room in his house – I don't know why, but that photo [printed in this Challenger] is just a gut-punch. It feels claustrophobic. I can almost smell it. I can imagine him sitting there, lonely and scared and weighted down by his love for his mom, writing his stories to take him out of that sad little room for a while.

Ned Brooks, Lilburn, GA, USA

You should have gotten a better picture of the Robert E. Howard typewriter, but I’m pretty sure it’s an Underwood 5 – it would be interesting to know the serial numbers on it.

[The Underwood 5] was in production for some 30 years. Of course there were design changes – but not a lot, or very significant to the user. I have three of them, from 1915, 1919, and 1922. There is a mystery about them I have not been able to resolve. My three, and four others that I have data on, over a 1.5 million range of serial numbers, all have a serial number under the left foot in addition to the serial number on the right side. The mysterious thing is that the number under the foot is always 42% greater than the serial number! But that would imply a discrepancy of 42% in the total number made, which is ridiculous.

The typewriter on display at the Howard house is not Howard’s – that one, we were told, is in the hands of a west coast collector. But it was the same make and model.

Richard Dengrove, Alexandria, VA, USA

[Regarding the Watts Towers:] There seems to be a psychological syndrome people have that they have to create some wonderful edifice/ Ripley’s and others have listed a number of people all around the country who have physically built and decorated buildings, and other structures, to their own very unique taste.

Sometimes their works are scorned as eyesores and sometimes they are praised as great art. One of the Smithsonian museums has had a masterpiece a black D.C. resident did with tin foil and light bulbs.

Such people have such firm views others’ views don’t matter. A builder in the Midwest with his own personal vision asked Frank Lloyd Wright what he thought of his masterpiece. Wright told him that he wouldn’t hire him to build a chicken coop. That only encouraged the man.

Ned Brooks

[Responding to my request to see every zine published in English:]
That's a rather languagist remark!

Chris Garcia

Exceptional! I love the Watts Towers. I’ve only seen it from a distance while I’m driving other places, but the mere idea of it and the methods used all make me smile.

I’ve never found an issue of Alexiad, but I must say that just seeing the word coelacanth in print makes me smile. I read Ansible, but only to see if I rate a mention in it. I really don’t understand why Dave Langford still wins Fan Writer Hugos. I don’t think Ansible is particularly entertaining and I don’t often see long form writing from him elsewhere. Am I simply in the extreme minority thinking that he’s not putting out stuff at the level of folks like Claire Brailey, Arnie Katz and Tanya Brown?

From the review you so masterfully present, if I don’t get myself a copy of Batteries Not Included, I will be forced to starve myself in a cave somewhere in the Southeast of Kashmir. It just sounds awesome. I very briefly worked in the porn industry. I had an internship at one of the major gay porn studios. Luckily I never had to go on set since I simply filed releases and made sure everything was settled. BNI would make a nice compliment to eI, my favourite zine of the last couple of years.

I love Bento. I was supposed to get back to David Levine the last day of WorldCon and pick up a copy, but I couldn’t make it work, so I still haven’t seen it. It finished 6th in the Hugo nomination round (1 place higher than The Drink Tank) and it was well deserved.

Randy’s piece in the recent Chunga hit me hard too especially since a good friend of mine was in with a couple of the people involved in that shooting. Marvelously written article.

I was very impressed with the CorFlu PR. It was very well done. I liked Last Year’s too, the ones done on Mimeo. I’ll be at CorFlu myself since it’ll be the easiest way to get to meet my buddy John Purcell at the same time as talking to various folks I’ve been reading.

Thanks much for the kind words about The Drink Tank. I’ll remember your kindness when I rise to power and conquer all.

Bless you, o mighty one.

eI is my favorite zine right now, though I thought the latest issue was not quite as full as the last three or four. In fact, I think it was the issue before last where my Dad’s only piece of fan writing appeared. He loved Earl’s old zines and since I had him working on filling various notebooks, he was glad that Earl agreed to print the article, though it did run after his death.

I’ll miss Emerald City. Cheryl’s a BASFAn and a friend and when she announced that EmCit was closing, it made me realize that no good zine lasts forever. When it was announced at a BASFA meeting, Andy Trembley looked at me and said “So, you gonna take over EmCit?” I said no since I couldn’t do it justice.

Neither could I – it’s Cheryl’s and Cheryl’s only.

I love John Purcell’s zines. He’s been quite nice about helping out with my TAFF race (he’s one of my nominators) and the Lloyd and Chris articles were very fun to write.

Your description of Billie Piper as succulent is dead on. She’s so very very hot. Almost distractingly so.

I finally read an issue of The Knarley Knews. Good stuff and I had all sorts of hooks for LoCing it. To me, that’s how you can tell a good fanzine: if you can find all sorts of things to comment on, it’s grrrrrrrrrrr-eat.

The NASFA Shuttle always makes me mad. BASFA can’t even put out a ClubZine and here’s a ClubZine that rates highly on the Chris scale. I’d just LoCed the latest issue yesterday morning.

I liked the latest No Award. I like the idea of plucking pieces of writing out from forums I wouldn’t normally get a chance to see and reprinting them. Nicely done too in the layout department. I still miss Holier Than Thou.

The group of eFen that inhabit eFanzines like Pixel, The Drink Tank and In A Prior Lifetime are an interesting bunch. Dave Burton’s one of the best layout guys I’ve seen working on the net. Pixel’s been on a roll since it added Ten White and the LetterCol has started expanding.

Again, thanks for the kind words on PrintZine. There’s another issue up on eFanzines and it’s all original material, and there’s issue 3 in my mailbox at work waiting for me to finish it up next week.

I gotta agree that Some Fantastic is fantastic and I’m so proud to be a part of it. The ore academic articles are wonderful and remind me of The Riverside Quaterly from back in the day.

Vegas Fandom Weekly is an influential zine. It led directly to Science Fiction/San Francisco, brought about the APA SNAPS and gave us new fan writers and a few returners. It’s one of the zines that I think gets the most attention but still needs a bigger reader base. It’s no longer simply a Vegas reporting zine.

Must read Warp. It sounds like a ClubZine that’d make me jealous.

Must read the new Challenger when it hits. Always a good read and always on my nomination list when the Hugos roll around.

Thanks Guy.

Thanks Chris!

Fred Lerner

In The Zine Dump you speak of "an alumni newsletter from the co-op dormitories where I spent my last two years at Berkeley". I spent the Summer of 1964 studying Hindi at Berkeley, where I lived in Cloyne Court. Norm Metcalf had recommended it to me, and so I paid my five dollars for a lifetime membership in the University Students Cooperative Association.

This entitled me, upon payment of fifteen dollars a week and putting in seven hours of work, to room and full board – a pretty good deal when I was receiving a fifty dollars a week stipend for living expenses!

As I remember it, Cloyne Court was a pretty interesting place to wear a Goldwater button. But Berkeley politics weren't entirely solid-left. At Sproul Plaza the Goldwater and Romney supporters each had their tables, from which they slanged each other pretty well. Until 11.30, that is: at which point the Romney people left their flyers and cash-box at the Goldwater table and went out for a lunch break. At 12.30 they returned and minded the store for the Goldwater boys until they returned an hour later -- and then it was warfare as usual until the end of the afternoon.

I hope your youth was equally misspent.

We’ve gone around and around about this – surely the other Republican candidate at that point in 1964 was William Scranton!

Milt Stevens, Simi Valley, CA, USA

LASFS is trying to phase out paper copies of De Profundis. This is part of a general effort to balance our budget. However, we are perfectly willing to send PDF copies to anyone who may be interested.

Recent issues have been running between 200K and 250K. Let me know if you are willing to receive the PDF version of De Prof.

Unfortunately, trades for De Prof have been pretty much of a waste. Interest in fanzines around LASFS is just about nil. In fact, I'm the only one who sees the zines that come in as trades, and I already get Challenger. Given the cost of printing Challenger, I'd advise not to continue sending it. I wish there was more interest in fanzines around LASFS, but it just isn't there.

Another clue that technology has rendered fanzines obsolete! In fact, within the next five years I predict that the Fanzine Hugo will morph into a Best Website/Blog Hugo, and we paper hounds will simply fade away. Anyway, by all means sign me up for the PDF De Prof – I can't live without my Cream of Menace.

Joseph Major, Louisville, Kentucky

"Winston P. Sanders" is Winnie the Pooh. Remember the stump? It had a sign saying "Mr Sanders".

I've seen Alice's Restaurant and I remember two things about it: 1) the protagonist tried to get a draft exemption on the grounds that he had Huntington's Chorea, which since he didn't shows that he didn't have a persuasive doctor and 2) he advocated living in a church steeple and throwing trash in the sanctuary, which shows a belief that cockroaches and rats can't climb.

I'm reminded of the little Polish shtetl that gave a schnorrer a job keeping watch for the Messiah. After a while he complained that he wasn't getting paid very much and could he have a raise. They told him, "Ah, but such job security!"

Wasn't Sir Richard F. Burton H.M. Consul in Trieste when he died?

I seem to remember that Burton’s last words were “I am a dead man,” a statement which was only momentarily incorrect.

Is the next movie after A Fistful of Dynamite titled For a Few Charges More?

The very popular Turkish movie where American troops in Iraq are portrayed as the bad guys also shows them as servants of evil Zionist schemers. So what else is new?

I was thinking that there had been a movie recently based on Paul Monette's life that had a subplot about the Tony Johnson story, except since this was a movie this was a real (and not so abused) boy. But I can't remember the title and Internet Movie Data Base is not of any assistance.

All knowledge is in fandom. Readers?

Isn't the usual fear of going back to your high school reunion that you'll find that everyone else is a millionaire who married well?

My fear is that the gorgeous girls whom I thought utterly unattainable will whisper to me, “I always wished you’d asked me out!” “Now you tell me!” I’d shriek.

I have to wonder if there would be such a complete lapse of creativity as Taral speculates. There are plenty of "free" works out there, from fan fiction to publish-on-demand works. (He didn't hear about our problems with Curse of the Vampire.) The question then becomes a matter of where are the good ones. That, I can see his point.

James Bacon

Well, following on from our conversation about sending a copy of Challenger 24 to Alan Moore, I realised I might actually get the opportunity at last to see him in person.

Julie Rigby (artshow Goddess at worldcons and children’s book buyer at UK's best independent bookshop, Foyle’s on Charing Cross Rd.) arranged tickets for a gang of us here to go and see Alan Moore.

I saw Alan Moore at the Institute of Education in Thursday the 12th October, he was interviewed along with Melinda Gebbie his partner and artist on Lost Girls by Stuart Lee, as part of Comica and organised by Blackwells and Paul Gravatt.

The venue was a very large auditorium and it was full.
The interview went well, at one stage there was a question about whether Lost Girls would see light of day in the UK, and I think Chris Staros, Moore’s publisher said he had talks with Great Ormond St, and it would be released next year, and all seemed good on that front.

As usual Moore's humour was pervasive, and there was much laughter in the auditorium. You can see that Melinda and himself had a special connection.
There was a terrific atmosphere about the place, really good-natured. I saw many people in the audience from Gary Spencer Millidge to Colin Greenland.

There were many images on a huge screen, as Stuart went through different parts of Lost Girls, and Melinda and Alan spoke in detail about ideas, and images.

Afterwards there was a signing, and I queued up with Stef and Steve and Liam and Julie and we waited. All this time I had Challenger 24 in the bag I wasn't sure of myself though, and as I got close, I thought, FECK IT, and as I placed my comics down to be signed, I mentioned I had a fanzine from Louisiana, which had a piece in it about him, and that I had written it, and that to be honest, I was a bit hard on his character, BUT I think he would like it, and its important to me to let him see it.

He was so absolutely nice, he was tremendously pleasant, humble, and relaxed.

He said he loved fanzines, and that he was pleased that anyone would write about him, he was so cool, it was unreal.

I thanked him for these outings, I count this, the Tate and Patty Smith’s Burroughs night as three great experiences. I said so.

Finally I shook his hand.

Crikey almighty, the fella was as decent as anyone would have ever hoped, and I must have seemed the ultimate fanboy, although deep down, I was unsure what he might make of my mistaken maligning.

Anyhow, thought you would like to know.

It figures that Moore would be a class act. Thanks for showing him our zine. I wonder if he recognized my name …He was a friend of Julie Schwartz – and wrote his last Superman story …

Martin Morse Wooster

Many thanks for Challenger #24. I really enjoyed your account of The Barrington Bull and the bonding you had with Terry Carr about his days at Berkeley. Is there still an SF club at Berkeley and do they remember you?

The Little Men wasn’t directly affiliated with UC. I have no idea who belongs to the great Bay Area group these days, but I know Berkeley’s Quinn Yarbro still remembers me.

When I was at Beloit College in the late 1970s I produced a weekly newsletter for the Beloit Science Fiction and Fantasy Association on the school’s ditto machine. (Remember dittos?) The one issue I remember was that we had obtained a copy of Dark Star to show on campus and one of our members did an elaborate ditto master based on the premise that the film was a dark work about stars. No one knew the film was a comedy. Still, we got a good turnout.

“Benson Arizona, the stardust in your hair / My body flies the universe, my heart longs to be there …”

I missed the issue you did immediately after Hurricane Katrina, but it is good to see Don Markstein’s report that New Orleans is recovering somewhat although of course there is much work that needs to be done. My one visit to New Orleans was for Nolacon II. In fact, the first time I met you was when you led an expedition for breakfast at Brennan’s, where I had a very nice meal (any day that begins with Bananas Foster is a good day indeed!).

Also along on that excursion, Rose-Marie Donovan, the first of many times I’d walk into Brennan’s with her. Can’t wait till the next.

My guess is that New Orleans’ problem is how to preserve the special, vibrant, and interesting aspects that make it unique without turning it into a theme park or pastiche of itself. I don’t know the answer to what New Orleans needs to do, but then I’m not an urban planner or a politician.

James Bacon reminds us that the price of fame for really good writers is that they can’t just go to a convention and have fun. Terry Pratchett, after all, started out like in the mid-1960s as a teenage fan, if we are to believe Peter Weston. Now he can’t go anywhere without being mobbed. Friends of mine who know Neil Gaiman tell me that one reason he enjoys going to the annual meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars is that he can have a good weekend talking about books with smart people who won’t bug him for an autograph. My guess is that Alan Moore is the same way; he seems reclusive because if he goes out he gets mobbed by fanboys. So who can blame him for wanting to stay away from the public?

Me! I want him to sign my copy of Watchmen!

Joseph T. Major’s piece about “Anthony Godby Johnson” reminds us of how much we want to believe that horrific stories, particularly about maimed or disabled children, are true. But how much good would have been done if the people who donated money or time to “Johnson” used their cash to help struggling children in their neighborhood. Surely the lesson we must learn from the “Johnson” debacle is that just because someone says something in an e-mail, it’s not necessarily true?

I wish e-mails were necessarily true. If they were, Nigeria would have made me a billionaire several times over!

John Purcell

Holy cow, Guy! I just spent the better part of the last hour- in which I really should have been in bed, since it's now almost three in the morning - perusing your latest issue, the June, 2006 number, in drop-jawed awe. Challenger #24 is one of the most well put together webzines I have yet seen. Okay, there may not be many of these yet, but with the likes of Planetary Stories, eI, Emerald City (now sadly defunct) and others out on the Internet, yours is remarkable. Congratulations on putting together such a fine webzine.

All credit for the web edition of Chall goes to Patti Green [ ;-p ]. The print version - which I regard as the basic one - is mine.

I guess I am a bit based in the past, as far as fanzines go. The material in #24 would find prominence in any zine, electronic or dead-tree, and there really isn't any one single piece that I can honestly saw really hooked me. Of course, the over-riding theme of recovery from Katrina still challenges me - seems to me that your zine's title now has a certain irony, doesn't it? - and the writings of Benford, Resnick, and others in here (especially in the letter column) really bring this tragedy home. Now I really do wish we had had the chance to get together earlier this summer when you were in town dropping off those boxes of zines for the TAMU science fiction collection. Next time, don't forget to let me know you're coming!

Like you, I am a big supporter of Al Gore. Even with the recent congressional election victories for the Democrats, I am a bit leery of what they and the Republicans will be able to accomplish. My hope is that Gore will declare. So far only Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa (whom I met back in 2000 when Gore was campaigning on the ISU campus in Ames) has declared, with Senator Barack Obama considering the possibility. I like these two men and respect their positions, but I do think that if Al Gore were to declare, he would be my main choice. It is my opinion, though, that much like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, Gore could do much more good as a non-President; however, with the shift of power now in place, a Gore presidency could result in some major long-range programs that would make a difference environmentally, economically, socially, and politically in this country. Who knows? President Gore might even begin to sway foreign opinion of America back in our favor. My fear is that he would be hampered much like Carter was: a too-intelligent of a man stuck in a position where no-one really wanted to hear what he was saying.

The trouble with getting Gore to run for the presidency is that plenty of people are interested in what he has to say now. An Inconvenient Truth is one of the three most successful documentaries of all time. His perspective on global warming is winning converts in every civilized government

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chris Garcia

I’ve been bad. I knew Challenger was out, I knew I should be running over to LoC and I failed to do so. I’m ashamed and have brought further shame upon my fannish family. Forgive me.

I had a bleak idea of what New Orleans is like today. Greg Benford’s view is even bleaker, and he has it first hand. It’s depressing that I never made it to New Orleans when it was still New Orleans and not whatever it has become. I did spend time in Alabama, mostly Mobile, and more than a little time in various parts of Mississippi (though much of it was in Tupelo) and I’ve been to many parts of the Gulf Coast and I’m certain that the great memories I have will not be conjured up again if I were to visit. Don’s look at rebuilding the city one party at a time is wonderful and it reminds me of the tradition of my people. When Mexico City was devastated by the 1984 Earthquake, large numbers of the barrios weren’t rebuilt and there was no central support. A group of folks in one of the poorest areas in Mexico City got together and threw a party. They only provided tables. The tables were made from pieces of the rubble, and for six weeks they partied and sang and danced and people from all over Mexico came and brought with them food and eventually they managed to make some money and feed more than ten thousand people and get their neighborhood back up and new, better shanties erected! Well, I didn’t say it was the perfect ending.

Ah, good ol’ James Bacon! I got to meet him at LACon and I quickly grew to like him. He’s a great panel guy too, as we were on a panel together about zines and he actually brought researched facts with him! That’s just nuts. I’m a huge mark for Alan Moore. Not only the best comic writer in the World for more than twenty years, but the perfect vision of the grumpy comic writer, secluded in his warren producing material that forces one to tell their mind to prepare for a good stabbing.

Joe Major’s look at “Tony” is a good one. I love hoaxes. I’d have gotten on well with Twain and Barnum I think. I love it when writers will pass off fiction as fact and sometimes get away with it. My personal fave is the story of The First Church of George Herbert Walker Christ. That was a ripper. The Tony story is a great one and I’ve been on the side of ‘‘exceptionally good hoax’’ for a number of years. I remember the article coming out in 1993 and the minor fury around it.

Richard Lynch, one of my all-time favourite fan writers/FanEds, has an article on the strange coincidences that exist in this world. I’m a gambler so I believe in God and karma. Those gamblers that don’t are forced to adhere to the ‘‘win some, lose some’’ rule while the rest of us are being punished/rewarded for good/bad actions. I’m one of those weird people who has the strangest of luck. I’ll give away a dollar and I’ll end up a dollar short at the checkout with a line of forty people behind me. It’s interesting to see that I’m not the only one.

I was really enjoying Mike Resnick’s piece until I got to the part where he said that The Elephant Man movie was a cut above mediocre. I just started turning it over and over in my head. David Lynch, restraining himself and having more actors that could power a film with incredible work and an awesome combination of mood and more texture than any other film of the 1980s and it’s only slightly above mediocre? Heresy.

David Williams talks about lots of zines that I love. There’s never been a zine quite like Mimosa in my eyes. I’m a historian and I really loved it. I remember it from my stint in fandom in the 1990s and I had just returned when they folded up the sign out front and there were no more. It’s still an incredible resource. I love Dick Geis zines. I’ve exchanged a few emails with him over the last couple of years and he’s a good guy. I sometimes try to emulate The Alien Critic in The Drink Tank but it inevitably fails. David, if you want, there’s always space in the various zines of Christopher J. Garcia for ya!

Really good issue! I must run and read the LASFS minutes where apparently I am a running joke!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Robert Kennedy, Camarillo CA,USA

It was good seeing you and Rose-Marie at L.A.con IV.

So, in a second trial Andrea Yates was found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. She did kill her children and she was guilty. I think that we need a new verdict—something like Guilty, but Insane (or if you like something more PC, “Mentally Incompetent”). The result would be the same, but the verdict would be more accurate.

I have mentioned this in another fanzine. But, given Guy’s occupation it may be appropriate to include here too. The A&E Channel has an excellent program—“Cold Case Files” (the real thing and not fiction). On July 1 they presented the case of Michael Crowe. In January 1998 in Escondido, California, 12 year old Stephanie Crowe was murdered during the night and the police were sure that her brother, 14 year old Michael, was the killer. Police officers browbeat, harassed, threatened, and lied to Michael. Michael became thoroughly confused and under extreme pressure he confessed just so that the police would stop. His confession, though, left a great deal to be desired as a confession. Among other items he stated that he had no recollection of having committed the murder, but must have done it as the police said that he did it. Two of Michael’s friends were also charged. It became obvious to any reasonable person that Michael and his friends were innocent and that another person was the prime suspect. The police involved, however, ignored the prime suspect. Michael and his friends were charged, but not brought to trail although it was left open for them to be tried later. Subsequently, one good Escondido police officer picked up the case and became convinced that Michael and his friends were innocent and of the identity of the real murderer. He put his own job in jeopardy by following the case. Fellow police officers told him to back off. The District Attorney refused to review the case. Finally, the California Attorney General’s office took over the case and the real murderer was convicted. I believe that the police officers involved (not the good one) and the District Attorney should have been sent to prison. This production was very unusual in that A&E has always before and since presented the police and law enforcement in general as the good guys. (And, in the other cases they have presented, that is true.) In this case they showed the bad side. A Google search will bring up lots of sites concerning Michael Crowe. By the way, A&E repeated the Michael Crowe case on August 12 so they may do it again as there are a lot of repeats.

In a phone call, Joe Major made me aware that a book (paperback) has been published about the case—Shattered Justice: A Savage Murder and the Death of Three Families’ Innocence by John Philpin, (2006, Avon Books, $7.99).

The case of “The Empty Man” (see Challenger #14) was recently dramatized on A&E. His lawyer – me – was not featured.

Now for #24.

I voted for Al Gore, like most Americans in 2000.” (p. 5) Well now, most Americans didn’t vote in 2000 or any other year, they were too young or didn’t care. If you meant to say most voters it still would not be correct. Gore received a plurality of votes, not a majority. Most voters didn’t vote for Gore or for anyone else. Incredibly, in 2004 George W. Bush did receive a majority of votes. That’s the first time a Presidential candidate received a majority of votes since Ronald Reagan. Neither George H. W. Bush nor Bill Clinton received a majority of votes.

For those not enamored of many of the candidates in either major political party, here in California we have six parties on our ballot. They range from Marxist to Libertarian. Take your pick. Only a Democrat or Republican will usually win. But, voting for candidates in the other parties feels very good.

For anyone truly interested in factual information concerning vote fraud, I recommend the following books: Dirty Little Secrets: The Persistence of Corruption in American Politics by Larry Sabato (1996) and Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy by John Fund (2004). And, if your heart can stand reading about vote fraud in Florida, VOTESCAM: The Stealing of America, by James M. Collier and Kenneth F. Collier (2000).

Mike Resnick’s article “Where Do You Get Your Crazy (Novel) Ideas?” (p. 25) was quite interesting and that’s first time that I can remember an author covering the subject. It’s normally a question that one does not ask an author.

Finally, Joe Major has an article on one of the subjects I was hoping he would write about — “The Life of Tony” (p. 55) —Tony the fraud. How about some more by Joe on cases like Michael Crowe’s, the McMartin’s, satanic ritual cases, false memory cases, etc.

As an amateur conspiracy buff I found “The Law of Conservation of Karma and Other Conspiracy Theories” by Richard Lynch (p. 59) a fun read.

These may be the only articles I’m commenting on. But, I thoroughly enjoyed #24 and thank you for sending it to me. I look forward to #25.

This summer -- #26 -- with a cover by Ken Mitcheroney.

Everyone – be part of it! Send me a LOC!