Issue 21
Volume 5 Number 5
November 2000

In This Issue

 •  Contents
 •  Cover Illustration
 •  Editorial
 •  <plokta.con>
 •  We Can Reproduce it for You Wholesale
 •  Gardner Dozois' Patented Pickup Line
 •  Lokta Plokta
 •  Conspicuous Consumption
 •  Revenge of the Cultural Stereotype

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[Plokta Online]

Lokta Plokta


Urg. Morning. Urg. Running behind schedule. Urg. No time for tea. Urg. Get post. It's Plokta. Open envelope. Neat cover. Turn page….


Tell you what, I don't fancy your Page 3 girl much.

I could really do without seeing that kind of thing first thing in the morning. Or at any time at all, really. OK, the censored Cheggers photo (Cheggers Pops Out) was worse, but not much. That ought to win some kind of award for "Mis-use of Photo-Manipulation Software". Or maybe get you locked up. Whatever, there's probably a web site for that sort of thing.

And so, it begins. Plokta cabal's insidious plot to infiltrate Croydon fandom. Before we know it, you'll all be here and the pre-Novacon Plokta will have "This is a Croydon Fanzine" printed on it in an attempt to confuse the voters.

Rodney Leighton

Did I actually read of a photo of Avedon Carol in leather Hot pants or did my fevered imagination make it up?

Rodney Leighton (again), sitting at home during a monsoon on Oct. 6, 2000:

Dear newest Plokta cabal member, hopefully NOT named Nova Cain:

I hope you arrived safe and healthy and that your mommy did not have any problems beyond the normal problems associated with being Alison.

I was kind of confused about you not knowing the sex of the baby. Given the lot of you are such technology geeks … er freaks … err nuts … eerr enthusiasts I would have thought that you would have had one of those ultra sound things and learned the sex of the kid months ago. Oh, you did and just used that as a joke. Okay.

Dale Speirs

Giulia de Cesare's article on childhood fire training in Tasmania will, I'm sure, be read with great interest by your readers in western Canada and USA. We've had forest fires like never before. I took a brief vacation down to Crowsnest Pass and Waterton Lakes in southwest Alberta where the Rocky Mountains form the border with British Columbia. I could still see across mountain valleys but the forest fire smoke was enough to make individual trees or strata of rocks blurred a few hundred metres away. Campfires were banned, helicopters flew past dangling buckets of water underneath en route to the fires on the other side of the pass, and we all kept a nervous eye on the escape routes.

Jan van 't Ent

Thanks for taking care of my bad feelings about archival failures; after the "Iron Faned" issue I needn't worry anymore: anything binding them Ploktas together would now make at least one issue unreadable, so I can now happily stack them loosely on any convenient shelf.

Eurovision song contest watchers? You? I'm… eh… speechless. Of course we didn't even get a chance to watch it, at least not live on Dutch television, as there were some fireworks spectacularly going wrong at our eastern border in Enschede. Something tells me that isn't quite what that old Eurovision logo is about (are they still using that circle of exploding suns?)

Tom Womack

OK, I think I understand this <knock, knock, is this thing on?>

Robert Sneddon with cheese hatI attend ploktacon, digicamless by grace of the Lenton Fence's Benevolent Fund. A good time is had by all. I conrep to rasff, babbling incomprehensibly and without illustrations. Time passes. You send me a Plokta. I wait. Gears turn. I send you a loc. Perhaps you send me another Plokta. Repeat. I incur an enormous karmic debt, which at some point I defuse by diffusing something nine hundred pages long profusely illustrated with Robert Sneddon wearing a gigantic foam cheese to all corners of Christendom and also Croydon.

And the Oxfam in Swansea had The Lights of his Face… for 79p, so I understand deebling now.

Ooh, cute gerbil.

<Was that thing on?>

Ian Stockdale

I was, of course, already familiar with (and grateful to) the Red Wine Fairy.

I thought Alison's herpetology article in no. 15 was one of the funniest things I'd read in the last year… especially the rabbit, the python, and the python's unfortunate owner. Cruel, perhaps, but so it goes. The P-Plan diet seems most helpful, albeit incomplete. One of the most important things that I learned in graduate school was that the wine-glass lift was at least as healthy as the pint-glass lift, especially combined with the wine-bottle pour.

Kim Huett

I've given the topic some deep and serious thought and I've come to the conclusion that the Plokta Cabal is the fannish equivalent of Messrs W. C. Sellar & R. J. Yeatman. Consider their works 1066 & All That, Horse Nonsense, or And Now All This. All these books, (but the last named in particular), consist of material best described as chopped nuts, Compare that to the milky white slivers of crunchy goodness the average Plokta consists of and you should see what I mean. Don't believe me? Then examine the enclosed volume and compare it to Plokta #13. I just did and found them equally delicious when the pages were rolled up tightly and eaten like profiteroles.

[Kim enclosed a 1940 printing of And Now All This to help us. We gave Jonathan the following:

Are you a Baby? You must decide. There is no time to lose. As Hoggmeister says—"the education of young babies begins in very early youth." Have a good look at the bathroom. And the bedroom, too. If they have recently become pharmaceutical museums full of cotton-wool, woollen cots, piffs, puffs, poofs, and lids of pink celluloid recepticules, then there can be no doubt about it. There is a baby somewhere in the house. The only question is—Is It You? Now is the time to try the introspective method, viz. auto-analysis. If after a critical and exhaustive introspection you decide that you have no teeth, whiskers, tail or tobacco-pouch, and are simply a helpless bundle of blankets, biblets, driblets, pilch-bockers and Kidknappies—then you can't get away from the fact—you are It. You are? Bravo! Take your fist out of your mouth and try to take in Chapter II.]

Other than that I most enjoyed Alison reminiscing about The Wombles, as that show was a good example of the English ability to make their whimsy charming. I was also very taken by her initial comment about not being able to believe in The Good Life's Surbiton or the Goodies' Cricklewood. It gave rise to a vision of a fantasy London where different suburbs are ruled by the laws of the television show for which they are best known. Imagine wandering from a Cricklewood full of the Goodies insanity to a Sunhill dominated by the atmosphere almost but not quite like grittiness of The Bill. Gosh but it would make being a tourist interesting.

I found it even harder to understand why Sue felt the need to mention that a band called To Hell with Burgundy had a folk element in it. With a name like that it was obvious. Put certain words, like Burgundy, into a band name and no group of musicians can resist their fate. If they had been called Robotdeathmachine they would be heavy metal for sure or if The Backstreet Five shite would be a certainty. Anyway, I wonder which Burgundy the band is against, the original independent kingdom or the bunch of cheese swilling, snail snorting Frenchmen they later became? Oh yeah, at the top of the page is my vision of the Plokta team going into action Thunderbird style.

Teddy Harvia

The spoof of 'Sgt. Pepper's' is great. But I remember the original seemed bigger to me as a child.

Charles Hitchcock

I'm glad to see some fans are still adventurous enough to dare the New Year's Eve crowds (or should that be crazy? Stroller and contents are more than the proverbial ten-pound penalty).

An interesting transatlantic point in common: the shortage of facilities for women. (This was argued loudly when the new sports arena went up—you can't base facility count on the number of women at an ice hockey game if you're also going to host Billy Joel concerts, let alone Disney-on-ice shows.) Sometimes they win; at a beer tasting some years ago I saw several women laughing out loud as they zipped past a line that went across the basement, up a spiral staircase, and onto the main floor—too many men thought you had to drink all of each sample. And a difference: such an event in the U.S. would have spawned many confiscations, if not arrests; some of this is residual puritanism, and some is the inability of U.S. drunken fuckwits to recognize private property. The last time I was near the bandshell site of the local Independence Day concert, I saw most of a cubic meter of confiscated alcohol piled up at one entry point, due to complaints about concertgoers trashing non-public hedges, gardens, …. (I suppose it doesn't help that the shell is next to an expensive part of town, or that its private greenery usually isn't defended by iron.)

Eloise Beltz-Decker

Well. A momentous moment—my first LoC. Actually, this weighty experience is preceded by another—reading my first fanzines, namely issues 1-10 of Plokta on the web. Despite attending all my local (Chicago, IL) conventions regularly for six years and more, I'd never so much as seen a fanzine. And then I got the Hugo ballot, and saw yet another category I skipped voting on for lack of knowledge; though I did note the nifty name. "Plokta," I said to myself. "I wonder if that's Russian?" I continued on my way, unchanged and unconcerned. Then, in the course of my working on publications for Chicon, I was handed a packet of art by Sue Mason. "Wow," I said to myself (I talk to myself a lot. Rather like Miles Vorkosigan, only not nearly so interesting), "These are good!" "Oh, yes," said my editrix and boss (the Sainted (well, if she ain't she should be, after this job) Diane Blackwood), "She's the TAFF guest. She works on Plokta a lot." A brief digression ensued where she explained TAFF, and I went, "Oh," and once more continued upon my merry way. I did finally begin to note the inevitability when someone sent me a link to an article in one of your webbed back-issues, bringing Plokta to my notice for the third time in as many weeks. I read it, and laughed heartily. And then I went up the tree and started reading from issue 1. Boy, am I sorry I've missed it till now.

First off, love the cover. Is it just me, or is the gentleman often depicted as Dr. Plokta vaguely reminiscent of a Rowan Atkinson with a much broader face?

The Amazing Adventures of Dryer Lint Woman knocked my socks off (though, due to her Secret Power, they promptly stuck to each other and to my trouser-leg and I can't rid of them.)

Synchronised Swimming Practice
The Plokta cabal synchronised swimming team practice for the 2004 Olympics

Eloise Beltz-Decker (again)

When my long-term guy gave me a Handspring Visor on the occasion of our having been together 200,000,000 seconds, I thought immediately that this behavior alone justified our involvement with your fine newsletter, and simply had to write.

Vivat Geekiness!


[With a long party report describing all of the costumes in detail, thus proving that a picture is worth a thousand words. Please send 3.7 pictures.]

Sarah (DDT#2) wrote some detailed notes on 'Experiment 24C41': In summary, its findings seemed to be that for people to expose themselves to alcohol shows a lack of self-control. Of course: For this to be Statistically significant, 50 Test Subjects is the very minimum. Accordingly, we may have to run a Double-Blind Test next year.

Judith Hanna

All the best for your imminent dweebling. Is Marianne geared up to having a real live baby doll arrive to play with?

Having been brought up, like Giulia, in highly inflammable Australia, I remain horrified by the Pommy habit of just dropping fag butts and walking on. It's not just the careless littering that adds to the grunge of British cities. But it's ingrained in Aussies that if you drop a fag butt, you grind it under your heel until it's well and truly extinct. What I reckon is that Australia should ban entry to smokers. And should ban city smokers from rural areas during the dry hot months.

Amazing the amount of ancient knowledge that gets reported as "scientists have just discovered": dog-eared history texts I dusted clear of spider-webs back in primary school told me that in the days of the Romans, North Africa was a breadbasket of the Empire, before deforestation and sheep and goat overstocking turned it to desert. Likewise ancient Mesopotamia. This summer, I am astounded by a spate of recent reports "revealing" that cutting down trees reduces rainfall, turning marginal areas into desert. Homo sapiens?

Steve Jeffery

Fabulous cover from Sue. Love the little details, like the fanged Windows icon and the coat of arms on the mousemat. And the mouse.

Inside…oh dear. That's a sight to put you off your lunch. No, not Meriol—she's cute (and better behaved than many fans, as she showed at her first convention, Lexicon last weekend at Oxford). I have to admit, my first thought was where did you find that much flesh for Tobes to give Pamela Anderson a good run in the Babewatch (Tobeswatch?) stakes? And does it pass the Baywatch "no jiggle when you run" test? I'm not sure whether I was disappointed or relieved to discover the secret bust of Tobes was superfluously technological. [It wasn't really—the entire body was Sue Dawson's, as practically nobody (except, we hope, Guy) noticed.]

Just what is Kari wearing? It is a trampoline, isn't it? Have you thought of loaning this series of photos to Edward James at Foundation for use as recruiting material for his MA course in sf? Could lead to the first vastly oversubscribed academic lit crit course in history. I look forward to your follow-on series 'SM Librarians in Bondage', and 'Fetish Accountants'.

Hey, we're even featured (although uncredited) in a back cover photo—framed somewhere in the background between Steve's and Alison's heads. (Do you realise there are ten of you around a table on which there is one pot of coffee and no beer glasses whatsoever? You could give people entirely the wrong impression of UK conventions.) [We're sorry. We hid the glasses, bottles and hip-flasks to prevent an intemperate temperance loc from Rodney Leighton.]

Margaret Austin

Thanks for the Harry Plokta issue. Another cover illo hits the spot. If there was an award for most amusing and topical fanzine covers, Plokta would surely win it. Is it just coincidence that you are able to find a subject in the news every time you go to print which lends itself to adaptation or do you actually wait until something suitable crops up in the news and then rapidly put an issue together while the topic is hot? [No: we plan the fanzine and then Dr Plokta turns on his Orbital Mind Control Lasers and changes the zeitgeist.]

Jackie Duckhawk

We went to Legoland yesterday and it was brilliant, but don't go unless (a) Marianne is over 1.0 metres tall and Hugo still a baby or (b) Hugo is also over 1.0 metres tall. Oh, and don't go on the best sunny day of the school summer holidays, either. It was full of superfluous technology. I mean, you don't really need a life size animated Lego T Rex, do you? And one of the three Billy Goats Gruff had a walkman.

Cat Coast

Dave took particular pleasure from Cleavage Night, and I am reminded of that evening every time I pass the fresh poultry portion counter at Sainsbury's. As for the prospect of having to name your second-born after an award that you fear you will never win, surely the love and admiration of your readership is better than a silly statue?

Marcus L Rowland

Liked the cover of the latest Plokta—here's one of the illustrations that'll be part of the next Forgotten Futures RPG collection - could they be related?:

Brad Foster

Great to get to meet Sue Mason in person at the Worldcon, and put a face and a voice to the artwork. I loved the accent, though when I mentioned that, she said she could really do an accent, and proceeded to let fly with a couple of sentences which, though my lovely wife Cindy seemed to understand her perfectly, were totally incomprehensible to me. Kind of scary!

I would like to note there is a fifth component to the shortcomings of the modern alien search method that needs correcting—the beefy and not always too bright two-fisted boyfriend of the beautiful daughter of the scientist. I mean, who's going to kick a little alien hindquarters if they turn out to be just a bit too pushy when they show up?

Eric Lindsay

What is wrong with authentic Australian experiences like bushfires? The entire landscape is replete with species that need bushfires. I will however try to draw the line at suggesting napalming the major cities of Australia would be a good idea, as some of my friends (foolishly) insist on living in those cities. I've never had a bushfire closer than burning out the back fence and part of the yard, and that was plenty of excitement for me.

Marcus L Rowland is absolutely correct about the lack of proper decor in the lair of mad scientists these days. I haven't seen a decent Jacob's Ladder in a furniture store for ages. I do however have the oscilloscope sitting in a closet, just in case. When I built my Applix computer (which was such a DIY venture that I also ended up writing all the manuals for it) I went to the trouble of drilling a bunch of 3 mm holes in the front panel, and mounted LEDs in them.

We recently returned from our motorhome trip about the Gulf country of northern Queensland, which occupied us this last month or so. Anyone who thinks mobile phones actually work should try them where we were. Ours went out of range on the first day.

The solar cells wouldn't charge the batteries as fast as the beer fridge discharged them, but you can stay out for a few days before the computers run out of power and the beer gets hot. We almost got stuck in the Gregory River, when the sand was a bit deeper than I thought, but going into four wheel drive got us out of that fairly smartly. The vibration from the dirt roads broke the door catch, the 240 volt fluorescent light and the seam of the rear stainless steel water tank. I wonder who knows how to weld stainless sheet around here? (Luckily we have two water tanks, and could switch the valves so we didn't have a link between them).

You don't want to know how much the diesel cost us for the 4000km. We may have single handedly caused the recent fuel shortages.

Joseph Major

So Dr. Plokta became a spy. Did he graduate from Cambridge? [Umm, yes, actually.]

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft: Back in Frankfort, Kentucky, in the sixties, there was not much science fiction to read. So, having exhausted the (admittedly not inconsiderable, if you count Tom Swift, Jr.) stocks of the library, I went on to read, er, related stuff. Flying Saucer books, that is. Among them was the original essay about the original attempt to contact saucerians by telepathy, which indeed began "Calling occupants of interplanetary craft." So that sappy song had a sappy origin.

This, alas, is a method of communication that seems not to require horn generators, white coats & lab glassware, intriguing calculating machines, or most dolorous of all, beautiful daughters. The guy who sparked off the idea had a real actual psychic experience after sending the message. Then the Men in Black came by…


Nice photo on page 3, although the article is a bit misleading as it seemed to imply that the dress-wearing was my idea. Not really sure what that was about, still it was a laugh, after all it's not every day that Scottish women ask me to wear their clothes. Liked the photo of KL Maund on page 4. More Leather Goddesses please. Oh yeah, and Aliens Stole My Handbag was fun, and having your nipples pierced does hurt. Quite a bit. I'd also like to point out that I've lost weight since that photo on page 5.

See you all at Novacon, I'll be in the bar.

Lloyd Penney

Great to finally meet Steve, Giulia and Sue in Chicago. I talked with Steve and Sue at the Minneapolis party (Sue was cantilevered into her Hugos dress, and it was difficult to keep one's eyes from wandering), and met Giulia at the news desk. We spent most of the rest of our Worldcon running the Toronto Worldcon parties and sitting around the bid table. Geography conspires against us, and keeps us all a distance apart. If there's ever the chance to get together for a chat without a convention getting in the way, the first round's on me, and mine's a cider.

I plan to search the CD to find out if a picture of Tommy Ferguson in a dress is resident. [Check the 2kon photos] I plan to toast Tommy one Toronto First Thursday with an interesting pic in the newsletter.

Arthur Hlavaty

I am shocked at the irresponsibility of allowing a gerbil to eat von Däniken books. Suppose someone put that gerbil up his ass and then started believing in space gods who built the pyramids. Then how would you feel?

Ian Sorensen

I had to write to register my disgust that you should choose my good friend Lilian as a target for your cruel humour. How dare you suggest in your "Lost Consonants" that Lilian is an embarrassing titch? Or perhaps you thought she was a witch? Either way, an unjustified slur on one of fandom's fairest flowers….

Brigadier Sir Ian Sorensen (ret'd)

Steve Green

Your "Delphic Poll" reminds me of the fun I had recently explaining to a colleague at work how the Apollo missions were accomplished with a slide rule and the computing power of a tv remote. This was immediately followed by me explaining what a slide rule was. (Appropriately, I am typing this loc on my Psion, largely by candlelight.)

Apparently, Keith Chegwin considers vomiting out of a 14th floor window his most embarassing moment (Guardian, 14 Oct). Waving your meat and two veg around on Channel 5 didn't even rate a mention. (It's not the nudity per se, but Channel 5? Surely even ex-pissheads should have some standards.)

Interested to see Bug's gerbils have chewed the Erich von Däniken but not digested. See: even rodents are too smart to swallow his theories.

Henry Welch

Thanks for the latest issue of Plokta which Steve passed to me in the elevator at Chicon. I would have to agree with E.B. Frohvet that Plokta and my fanzine, The Knarley Knews, are very different, but I don't subscribe to his theory that one of us is a hoax perpetrated by the other. [Actually, we always thought we were your hoax.]

Due to the expense I am reluctant to trade 3-for-1 at air mail rates. Is there a preferred address for trades? [Yes, use Alison's address]

Marty Cantor

Marty Cantor (again)

OOPS. Sorry. I dunno what happened. What you got was the header for the loc.

John Berry mentioned that I had written, in a loc to another zine, that he was an Old Fart because he was not on line. To clarify, now that he is on line, he has joined me in being an on line Old Fart. Being on line is sort of an elective, but Old Fartism is something that neither he nor I can cure.

Ian Stockdale (again)

Congratulations to Alison and Steven on the arrival of Jonathan. Also, congratulations to the Cabal on the Hugo nomination and on moving up to 4th place. Only three more years to the inevitable victory.

Ken MacLeod was clearly a plucky GoH; I would never dare attempt to put up shelving (twice!) at that ambitious a level, let alone tell people about it.

The 370/148 sounds like something from the IBM 360 mainframe family. If so, the irritation factor may exceed that of Marianne's more CPU-intensive toys.

Ben Yalow

Unfortunately, I can't find all of my reference books for medium-old IBM mainframes, so I can't just look up the information. So this is all by quarter century old memory, and could well be wrong.

The 148 was a second generation of the 370 series—the successor to the System/360 series, which is an architecture that forms the base of IBM mainframes until now, and first came out in the 60s. The 370 line followed a decade later. The first generation 370s (135/145/ 155/165) were almost indistinguishable from the comparable 360s.

The second generation took the first generation, and added virtual memory to the instruction set (the early 370s, and all the 360s except the 360/67, didn't have virtual hardware, so all the addresses were mapped directly into physical memory). And the 148 was near the bottom of the line. I would expect it would be able to handle about a meg or two of memory, and be about a one MIPS or so CPU. It's hard to compare instruction speeds with modern micros, since the 360/370 was very CISC—you had single instructions that could do things like looking through a large chunk of memory, and change it from EBCDIC to ASCII, or scanning though memory, looking for any byte with a given value, and returning the location of that byte (along with which value stopped the scan), etc.

But I would guess that some of the toys may have more power, and certainly a Psion/Palm level machine has substantially more.

Milt Stevens

In Plokta #20, Marcus L. Rowland puts considerable emphasis on the appearance of SETI research and researchers. This may be entirely valid, but what about aliens who may use smell rather than sight? They might be more interested in researchers who used barbecue sauce as aftershave. On second thought, maybe we really don't want to meet those aliens anyway.

It is always assumed that mathematics would be a surefire way of communicating with aliens. Few have considered why that might be. Consider the primitive life of any sentient species on some routine planet around the galaxy. Looting and pillaging isn't much fun if you can't figure out how much loot you have acquired. Thus mathematics is necessary for all sentient species. Behind all sentient thought is avarice. So SETI must appeal to that galactic avarice. They might try running a Galactic Sweepstakes. We begin broadcasting messages all over the galaxy telling everybody and everything that they may already have won valuable prizes such as a dream date with Dave Langford, the Shetland Islands, or a lifetime supply of toxic waste. Of course, they don't have to subscribe to our Galactic Communications Digest in order to win. However, if they don't, they aren't likely to get anything from us other than further "You May Have Won" messages.

Alison solicits predictions on the future from the Plokta readership. The Delphic Process may be all very rational and scientific, but it just doesn't have the pizzazz of old-time prophecy. For real prophecy, you need three witches with laptops and an ample supply of ground fog [Should this be ground frog, Vern?]. In a pinch, you could try scrying the entrails of Gary Farber. The true prophetic statement links the subject event to some other and totally unlikely occurrence. For instance, "Plokta shall win the Hugo when Ben Yalow's bowtie comes undone." Now that's more of a proper prophecy.

Jan Stinson

I had a great deal of fun reading all the backishes of Plokta, so much so that I was late for work several times because I didn't want…to…stop…reading…oh, Gawd, it's happening again!

Paul Campbell

Clacton SF programme So what's all this fuss about a little bitty <plokta.con>, then? They do it better and bigger on the coast you know. I enclose a program from our very own Clacton Sci-Fi Convention.

Now let me ask you: how many shops were you sponsored by? How much did you charge each other for autographs? And did you have a stall selling old Star Trek photos and homemade jam? Unfortunately neither my freshly forged ID as a Plokta reporter nor my dignified (=aged) mien let me in for free or got me to the head of the several hundred queue for signings. Still, for a chat with Sarah Jane and a signed video insert for the Ark in Space, 2 hours standing and £3 was a right bargain. And I bet you didn't have a Tardis, or a K9!

We Also Heard From

Irwin Hirsh, Sheryl Birkhead ("I get further and further behind in fanac"), Susan Francis ("England is indeed soggy at the moment"), Alex McLintock ("LoC coming soon. Promise"), Bruce Gillespie ("Apologies for being a non-correspondent to Plokta"), Pamela Boal ("I chuckled out loud") and Cathy Doyle ("I'm sure your mom and dad have you publishing your first issue").

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