Issue 22
Volume 6 Number 1
January 2001

In This Issue

 •  Contents
 •  Cover Illustration
 •  Editorial
 •  Do Artists Dream of Electric Shepherds?
 •  The Rocket's Red Glare
 •  Flay Your Friends And Family
 •  Santa's Little Helper
 •  Occupational Stresses of Sentient Locomotives
 •  Lokta Plokta
 •  Friends Come in Boxes
 •  Great Airplane Disasters of OurTime

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The Plokta News Network. News and views for SF fandom

[Plokta Online]

Lokta Plokta

Dave Langford

Many thanks for another Plokta. May I assume that the US edition was retitled Harry Plokta And The Sorcerer's Macintosh?

Alasdair Hepburn

[we seem to be missing the LoC from Alasdair Hepburn that came with this picture]

Antler notes

John Dallman

The world needed the Harry Plokta cover; I thought that meant we knew Dr Plokta's first name, but the cover of the latest issue has foxed that idea. Clearly he's moved in mysterious ways, or just labels his clones alphabetically.

Ben Yalow is completely right about the IBM 370/148 mainframe, but a description from someone who hadn't had so much contact with them might read: "A massive water-cooled steel box, filling a large room and tended by people whose training by IBM had usually gone down to the autonomic reflex level; in extreme cases, they had genetic modifications to help them know that all good things came from IBM."

Oh, it had some computing capability too, but Ben's quite right about how little. Surely Marianne has toys with more computing power than a Palm? [Yes: Jonathan.]

((This LoC was drafted on a dual-processor beta-test Itanium machine, running at, err, classified, MHz under Windows Whistler. With old familiar WordPad.)) [Dr Plokta just wants you to know that he's faunching.]

The easy way to tell if an AI Gary Farber is acceptable is to test it live. If it misunderstands Patrick Nielsen Hayden, it stands a chance; if it can be persuaded to agree with the "real" one, it's clearly broken.

I'm listening to the US election results—no firm result yet.

Jo Walton

Sasha wants me to tell you that now you can be relieved you didn't call Jonathan Hugo. He's probably the only Plokta reader who actually believed that you meant that comment.

Having just read Gloss, I want to say that I read Plokta for the articles. And you can quote me on that.

Terry Jeeves

Query, was that 'Complements' To The Chef a mis-spelling or have I missed the crafty pun involved?

A nice load of Locs and Milt Stevens on contacting ETs raised a thought. We always assume they are trying to contact us via radio, but might they not be standing on a hilltop and using flag semaphore?

ERG 152 well along the way, stay tuned.

Austin Benson

I'll see your two Irish Elk and raise you one (and lots of bits!)

While in Dublin for Octocon we visited the "Dead Zoo" as the Museum of Natural History is known. It's an old building, long, tall and narrow in they way they used to be built when the only good lighting available was natural light through the windows. As you walk in you are greeted by three Irish Elk skeletons, two male and one female. The males' antlers practically span the width of the building between them.

Just so the visitor gets the point, all around the walls above the display cases are more sets of antlers, some even more impressive than those attached to the full skeletons.

Elizabeth Billinger

Your recent ‘Baby and Child Care' issue makes me wonder whether it isn't time for a career change:

I've only been made redundant once, way back in 1993. In recognition of four and a half years of hard work I received the staggering sum of £180 in statutory redundancy pay. I deduce that Mike's rewards for being fired are somewhat more that this.

Then Steve Jeffery goes and suggests that ‘Fetish Accountants' should be a follow-up feature to ‘Leather Goddesses of Academia'. Should I simply hide in the wardrobe until it all goes away, or should I cultivate a fascinating and photogenic fetish? And should I be worried that I don't have a suitable fetish already?


The Leather Goddesses of Academia series is making me a bit paranoid. I think I'd better go through the photo crate in case Harry decides to see if you are willing to go in for a blue-collar special.

Marcus' bit on SETI has given me a couple of ideas though. We're redoing our study next year when we have to move it so Jodie can have her own room, so I think the network is getting a suitably cased server. Only one problem with the Jacob's Ladder though, will it encourage Mungo to emulate Snufkin the Pyrocat? It's going to be a while before we get the nubile daughter though, and with our genetic material I think the slim part is going to be optional.

Love the moo-o-matic though, I could do with one of those since the spell checker has to work overtime if I'm going through RASFF while giving Jodie her evening scoff. I'd just have to make sure Mungo doesn't try to butt in.

Pamela Boal

Being a gratuitous baby with uneven buttocks Jonathan has achieved the height of fannishness at a very tender age. That young man will go far.

Enjoyed Steve Davies on Conspicuous Consumption. Surely Steve you put at least one extra nought on that price? One of our grandsons bought his little sister an electronic puppy for her birthday for about £30 (the whole of his earnings from his Saturday holiday job). She was ecstatic, most especially because it snores when it goes to sleep. You would not be able to print what the rest of the family said by the end of the first day's encounter with this pet. We have just fallen foul of the same granddaughter's exposure to the media marketing mania. We went to Abingdon Fair and won amongst other things a mysterious (to us) critter. I asked the stall holder to identify the weird being, she looked amazed by our ignorance and told us that it was a Pickerchee Pokerman, well that's what it sounded like to us. While we knew that our granddaughter was partial to fluffy animals we thought she wouldn't be interested in this rather unattractive (to our eyes) being, so we gave it away to a favourite Lock Keeper's grandchild. Bad move! Ignorance is bliss, if only we had not sought to enlighten ourselves when all unknown to us our granddaughter was in earshot.

Jackie Duckhawk

Thanks for the latest Plokta, and especially its envelope! I am pleased to report that there is an excellent giant elk skeleton in the paleontology museum in Munich, which Katherine and I attempted to draw. If I had a scanner, I'd send you a picture, at least of Katherine's effort! [Please send a photocopy.]

Congratulations on Jonathan—I think you were very brave to have him at home, and entirely for the messy-stuff-on-the-nice-floor reason!

How to be a domestic goddess
Giulia demonstrates How to be a Domestic Goddess

Harry Andruschak

I am far more comfortable with the spirituality of AA then I have ever been with fandom, but I hope to retain a few links to fanzine fandom. Like Plokta.

The closest I have been to animals recently has been a neighbor's pet rabbit that he allows to run loose, and which sometimes sits in the driveway where I park my car. Despite my repeated efforts to run over and kill the cute bunny, he always manages to hop out of the way in time. Drat.

Other than that, it is hell month at the United States Postal Service, as we deal with billions and billions of Christmas cards, Christmas catalogs, and Christmas parcels.

Eloise Beltz-Decker

Your web of influence grows; I've just spent a hilarious night ambushing my gentleman friend and our roommate with dramatic readings from the pages of your latest issue. They were particularly taken with the childbirth narrative and the description of the abortive Aibo purchase. They were also fascinated by the envelope, and amazed that you managed to have it shipped from Singapore on a whim. They shouldn't underestimate the power of superfluous technology. They were highly fascinated, however.

Sheryl Birkhead

Despite what the corner of the latest Plokta envelope said, it appears Dr Plokta does not know where I live.

Rodney Leighton

Thanks very much for Plokta 21 in the somewhat personalized envelope. Dr. Plokta was misled somewhat by his computer. I am, in fact, a lumberjack. [... und strümpf und bustenhalter. Wär gern' ein kleines Mädchen so wie mein Onkel Walter?] Part of the time. Trying to do silviculture at the moment which is somewhat different. I shall confess that I am not altogether certain what the flag even looks like and I don't speak much French, or even do that, any longer. And a beaver is ... well, never mind.

I was loccing No Award #8 and speculating on why Alison dislikes that fanzine, or at least Marty thinks she does, stopped writing at that point to go try to earn some money and came home to find Plokta. I mentioned to Marty that if he added some superfluous technology and printed some photos, reduced or eliminated his loccol and divided the zine into 3 issues, there wouldn't be much difference between the fanzines. Of course, this issue of Plokta has a longer loccol than usual; longer, in fact, than No Award; fewer pictures and is half as large. I told Marty that his zine is more sercon than Plokta which should please him no end.

Good God, Steve must have a lot of money. [No, of course he doesn't; he spends it all on superfluous technology.]

Times have changed a lot. Of course, rural Nova Scotia is still vastly different from England I think. Any woman who wanted two midwives to help her have a kid would have to scour half the province, I suspect. I was born at home, as were all 3 of my siblings. No doctors, no gas, no oxygen, no midwives. Just an older neighbour lady who had helped out many times. On the other hand, Mum was confined to the house for days prior to each birth and confined to bed for days after. By doctor's orders. I think she was supposed to stay in bed for 10 days after I showed up. Of course, that was over half a century ago and back then, I don't suppose English ladies would waddle down to a restaurant the day before a baby is due. And the poor little bugger has a web page before he is a day old. Truly interesting birth report, though. I wonder if that will start a trend, something like con reports.

I have to go try to get a saw to function, try to cut down a few hundred small trees, hope it doesn't snow too damned much or if it does it does, in fact, turn to rain and wash the stuff all away, come home to no mail and a cold house. Make some crap for supper, read a bit, sleep some, hopefully, and repeat it all. Ugh. Perhaps I should get a cat or a computer. Or a blow up of that picture of Sue Dawson with the weirdo removed.

Joseph T Major

And when are you going to get the zine mailed from Antarctica?

Dr. Plokta Knows Where You Live: Not really. These young single or shared households rent multi-unit apartments in densely populated metro areas. I know of only one significant multi-unit apartment complex in the zip code. Most of the housing in this area is single-family working-class houses built in the early 1900s; our house, for example, was built in 1903.

Among the rest of the facilities of this zip code are:

1) The biggest cemetery in Louisville;

2) The office where I work, in a building converted from a hospital;

3) An outpatient medical care facility, another former hospital;

4) A half-dozen Irish bars;

5) An abandoned grain elevator, abandoned after an explosion; and

6) A store that sells billiards equipment.

Harry Potter and the Lord of the Flies by J. K. Rowling and William Golding: I thought the scene where Harry turns Piggy into a real pig was the most hysterical of them all . . .

<plokta.con> What proof does Ken have that his trip to Prague was arranged by the CIA? Did he think he was going to Budapest? Did his luggage end up in Warsaw? Did the tour-guide speak only Serbo-Croat? Did they exchange his pounds for Chinese renminbi? Did his seatmate whisper confidentally, We just found out that Stalin died. Maybe things are going to change!

If any or all of these things happened, the chance is likelier that his trip was arranged by the Completely Incompetent Agency.

Conspicuous Consumption (which I thought was wearing a Chinese embroidered waistcoat when you have tuberculosis, c.f. James A. Michener's Hawaii): Computers have the same (re)production problems as Aibo robopuppies. They keep all the original fatherboards locked up in a basement at IBM.

"You know, if this were happening in our country, it wouldn't be funny"

Eric Lindsay

I was most impressed with your customised envelope, but did you have to hand customise each envelope, or do you have a little database of appropriate material, with random generation of lines? As a slightly later addition, I now see an example of the fine demographic data available about the U.K., and agree it is totally remiss that Australia should be lacking such resources.

I was less impressed by the priority postage, which took twelve days (of Xmas?) to reach me. Still, I suppose that isn't too bad really. I've had email that took longer (and most of that is less coherent). [No, our post is cheaper than airmail and faster than seamail.]

I take it that you do realise that Marianne is probably being seriously warped by her fannish childhood. Gets to be a cover girl (repeatedly), plays with superfluous technology, etc. She could grow up to expect such things as her right in life (and maybe that means she will fit right into the future).

Mike is setting me the right model for a budding billionaire (well, I'll settle for millionaire—how about thousandaire?) If I could just break even I'd be happy. Seems there is little demand for sites containing free fanzines, especially when you forget to tell people the site exists and when it is updated. Fancy that, whoever would have thought being a would be so much hard work. Well, I have the unemployed bit all under control right now. The getting fired as a career seems much harder—I suggested redundancy payments, but they said I should keep working. I said I didn't know what I was doing, and they said they hadn't noticed.

If you lived in Australia I'm sure that asymmetrical buttock creases would be of considerably more concern. Imagine the scene at the beach. I'm given to understand that Arctic gear and a fur coat is more typical beach wear in the U.K., and thus such disfigurements are not nearly as visible.

Milt Stevens

On the cover of Plokta #21, the technology represented would be anything but superfluous. Having remote controls on babies and small children would be a boon to human civilization comparable to the invention of the vibrator. If one of the littleuns is throwing a tantrum on channel two, you simply flip them to channel nine to render them unconscious. Evil step-mothers could go channel surfing to accomplish complete nastiness. A mute would be a useful feature too. It could also come in handy for teenagers, co-workers, and some folks you meet at cons.

Later in the issue, Steve Davies is considering cyber pets for technologically enhanced youngsters. You could start with a gold fish bowl screen saver. I've seen city employees sit for hours in awed fascination of this simple bit of technology. Then there is Sim Ant Farm. Children can watch the disgustingly industrious activities inside an ant hill without any danger that the little buggers will get out of the box and eat all your Von Daniken books.

I hope this doesn't destroy too many of Patty Wells' illusions, but Gardner Dozois is widely known to be completely shameless when it comes to soliciting subscriptions for Asimov's. At Bucconeer, he wouldn't let go of my leg until I assured him repeatedly that I'd been a subscriber for years. I didn't think the whole incident represented any sort of real attraction other than to the contents of my wallet.

Brad Foster

I suddenly realized on looking through the graphics-heavy but fillo-art-light latest issue that you guys have such a high design aspect to Plokta, and all of the graphics tend to support the text, that it's probably going to be the rare occasion where you will even need to run a bit of loose fillo from me! Ah well, my own personal fannish coin of exchange has always been the artwork, so I am quite grateful you are still keeping me on your mailing list in exchange for these pitiful excuses for locs. Because I certainly do love to get Plokta! Never know what to expect, but it's always a winner—case in point, the personal demographics mailing label, not to mention the post mark from Singapore!!!! [We do use fillos, and always like to get them.]

The fan artists' competition from Plokta.con reminded me of similar panels at other conventions, where the artists are expected to be creative and entertaining in a very short period of time, and to work to order as well! Is this sort of thing ever inflicted on the writers at any of these gatherings?? [In the newsletter room.]

Cindy was busy working upon other...things...when I was first going through this issue, so I read the full "Gardner Dozois' Patented Pick-Up Line" article to her, to both our vast amusements. (It's funny because it's true!)

Lloyd Penney

Plokta is at last 21! Now it can legally drink in many American bars!

I just finished reading and loccing the latest issue of Opuntia, so seeing 46.1's cover upside down in here...well, it's simply too much. You people have far too much time on your hands! By the way, I vote for B...

For the envelope's message for M9C 2B2, I got a slightly-changed version of that which most Canadians know as The Rant. I'm surprised it crossed the spread all over the continent here. Canadians love it; Americans are puzzled by it...

As seen above, the ultrasound being a perfect example, superfluous technology is everywhere, and here, it sneaks into your household at your most susceptible time...Christmas. Santa (superf. tech.'s prime operative) and Yvonne (Santa's familiar) dropped off a Palm m100 PDA for me. Superf. tech. is insidious...only two weeks after Christmas, and already I can't do without it. I'm going to be buying a lot of AAA batteries. Not only does it store scads of notes, memos and addresses, it also plays some nifty games, which will eat the batteries even faster. (Santa owns 500,000 shares of Duracell.)

Welcome to Eloise Beltz-Decker...with a last name like that, you must be a karate expert. I'd say this is a marvellous fanzine to be calling your first. Get lots more. In another letter, I said that fanzines were my fannish National let me travel all over the fannish world, seeing enclaves of activity I'd never see otherwise. Only thing is, this version of National Geographic doesn't have photos of half-naked native women. Maybe Sue Mason could draw us a few, and the illusion would be complete.

Dig for Victor

Gwen Funnell

A cat is said to use the length of its whiskers to measure whether it can pass through a gap. Presumably, if a cat gets fatter, its whiskers grow. What happens if it gets slimmer? [Dr Plokta replies: given George's and Spooky's dietary regimes, the Cabal is unlikely to discover the answer to this question.]

Ian Stockdale

Thanks for another informative Plokta, espcially including Dr. Plokta's source of postal code fun facts. He is quite up to date in leaving dot-com options off of his list of primary sources of income in 94301, although I'm sure that would have trumped rental property several months ago. One small correction: luxury cars seem to be passe now, as luxury trucks and SUVs seem to have taken over the streets. At least, they're all I can see peering out from my Honda Civic.

Eric Lindsay, commenting on Marcus Rowland's article on appropriate SETI strategies, writes that he hasn't seen proper decor from mad scientists lately. The SETI institute is one city south of of Palo Alto. As such, we can confirm that observation. We haven't seen any of the distinctive distinguishing characteristics that the searchers need in order to be successful—no white coats, no glassware, and no obsolete electronic equipment. Could the SETI Institute's zip code (94043) hold a clue to understanding this failing?

["These young single or shared households rent multi-unit apartments in densely populated metro areas. They are well educated, with half holding bachelor's or graduate degrees. They are gainfully employed in managerial or professional positions. They join health clubs and environmental groups and also enjoy racquet sports, biking and jogging. Their singles activities include dancing, going to clubs, the theater or museums. They use their credit cards to buy expensive clothing."]

Paul Campbell

Warm congrats tho to all(!) concerned in the production & installation of the new cabal CEO. We never expected the new issue to recapitulate the last; now you've had the experience of debugging Marianne, the revised programming should ensure Jonathan unrolls much more smoothly. Or not.

The envelope info on CO15 2AW was of course read in from an alternate timeline. ‘Better-off Council Area'? ‘Relatively Affluent'? ‘Spending Takes Precedence Over Saving'—you bet! This is the english seaside, where people come when they can't afford Harlow, Stevenage, or the other places mentioned in the breakdown. My workingmen's club appreciated it tho.

I'm emailing this 'cos I can't afford a stamp....

Tim Kirk

As you can see from the sig I'm now (like a terrifyingly large chunk of fandom it seems) working in IT and dealing with the conflicts between the massively superfluous (multiprocessor Alpha machines with Gigs of memory per processor) and the utterly underwhelming—trying to get printouts from the above to come out on a 6 year old Epson Inkjet (and a Windows one to boot). Oh well I'm learning Unix the interesting way—previous admin left the friday before my monday start and left neither notes nor a fully working network... and then the mail server's hard drive blew...

Do any of you know where the K'Nex is?

Cardinal Cox

If you do send two issues out at once again, please put two stamps on it. Took me an hour and a half to get to the post-office and back. [Sorry.]

Always enjoy pic's of academics in leather, will try to get the good doctor Gail-Nina Anderson. (member of Dracula Soc. & British Fantasy Soc, lectures in Art History and Buffy). to send some of her's in

Spot on with the study of my postcode, of course spending takes precedence over saving, it's those little luxuries like food and heat on this estate. The only people with new cars are the pimps.

(Sue, I'm a Cardinal, do I get extra virulent pox?)

D West

Nova Award time already, eh? So is this the year Plokta finally makes it (or starts to catch up making it)? Not a very large field. I suppose it just depends whether the voters have acquired too much of a taste for voting for something else then gathering round for a heartless cackle at your disappointed little faces. Fans are like that.

Martin Morse Wooster

I realize that Dr. Plokta sees all and knows all. But while most of your readers see an ordinary Singapore postmark, I know that he made contact with the legendary Tanjong Pagar cult. Known as the "mad mailers," the Tanjong Pagar were dacoits trained by imperial agents to hurl valuable objects over long distances thanks to increasingly powerful blowguns. By World War I, the Tanjong Pagar were air mailing letters across the Straits of Malacca; by 1930, their blowguns could send letters as far as Rangoon. With the end of empire, most observers thought the Tanjong Pagar had vanished, but only a careful few realized that thanks to increasingly powerful equipment and lungs empowered by a lifetime of Tantric discipline, that the Tanjong Pagar had achieved transoceanic capabilities. Since their blowguns require no petroleum, the Tanjong Pagar offer a competitive advantage in an era of rising oil prices, which is no doubt why Dr. Plokta used them.

Singapore postmark

I am happy to see from Patty Wells's article that Gardner Dozois is a suave and dashing editor who always gives a little something extra to his subscribers. She should know that Dozois was much less sophisticated. Disclaves of the 1980s were marked by the "Naughty Lingerie" party, hosted by redoubtable Philadelphia fan Tess Kessinger. The party was open to anyone willing to wear unmentionables, but few fans were as daring as the mighty Gardner, who once regaled members of the party for several hours wearing nothing more than a diaper...

Ken MacLeod might not like to know that, at the fan funds auction in Chicago, that rights to appear as a character in a Lois McMaster Bujoid novel went for just over $1,000. However, there are some authorial artefacts fans won't buy. Bujoid donated the three dresses with which she accepted her three Hugos, as well as matching purple pumps to go with one of the dresses. These clothes, however, only went for $30-40 apiece.

John Hertz

Perhaps if we go on improving our acquaintance I may some day address you by your first name, Press.

It was no surprise to see Ken MacLeod in No.21. Having duly read a gift copy of The Stone Canal, just published our side in January, I can assure anyone it has plenty of superfluous technology. From his report of <Plokta.con> I cannot but think wearing a corset in a sauna is ST, low tech though it be.

Dale Speirs

Plokta #21 received and read. I went past the upside-down cover of Opuntia several times without realizing what it was, then did a genuine double-take. I can only assume that you must have taken it out of the envelope upside-down. I'm afraid to go back and look at all the other Opuntia covers (there are 121 issues as of December 2000, issue #46.5D [by a strange coincidence, that's Sue's bra size]) for fear of what I might find.

Congratulations on your continuing programme to actually do something about increasing fandom by breeding new ones. Most of us just talk about the decline of fandom without ever doing any real work to solve the problem.

The Cleavage Panel at <plokta.con> will probably create a divide between sercon fans who think it, or them (I'm not sure of the plural), is/are undignified. Many attendees may feel uplifted by such a panel, while others think it too much of a good thing overflowing the bounds of good taste. It is a looming issue in the forefront of convention fandom, with heavy overtones jutting out before us. What is to be done?

The demographic envelope was a nice touch, and I have added it to my mail art collection. I wish more fans would indulge in mail art by dressing up their zine's envelopes, subject of course to the serious matter that such artwork should not attract the attention of H.M. Customs as probable obscene or anarchist literature. In other words, no cachets of Leather Goddesses or slogans urging us to break our chains and put the enemies of the people up against the wall. I dress up Opuntia envelopes with rubber stamp artwork, and would like to see more of this done by other zine editors.

Look, the Winged Victor of Samothrace!

We also received several moose from:

Kate Yule, Anders Holmström and Jae Leslie Adams.

We Also Heard From

Joseph Nicholas (retroactively DNQing his loc), Bruce Pelz ("Delenda Est Cartago Nova Nova"), Margaret Austin ("You mean we actually fooled you into believing Swindon really exists?"), Alex McLintock ("Did I never get around to that LoC? Oh dear."), Evelyn Murray ("You know where I live........."), Ailsa Ek ("The baby is due next Thursday"), Allen Baum ("I will really, really try to Loc with something more coherent than this..."), Kev McVeigh ("I have no interest in babies.") and Karen Pender-Gunn ("Australia : primitive? Bah, at least our voting system works.")

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