Issue 25
Volume 7 Number 1
January 2002

In This Issue

 •  Contents
 •  Cover Illustration
 •  Editorial
 •  Five Go Mad In Mordor
 •  Recapturing My Flaming Youth
 •  Decking The Halls With Thorazine
 •  Lokta Plokta
 •  Natasha Jacoby
 •  Marcus L. Rowland
 •  SMS
 •  Josph Major
 •  Andy Sawyer
 •  Jackie Duckhawk
 •  Steve Green
 •  Joseph Nicholas
 •  Terry Jeeves
 •  Amanda Baker
 •  Marc Gordon
 •  Milt Stevens
 •  D West
 •  Marisol Ramos
 •  Henry Welch
 •  Del Cotter
 •  Lloyd Penney
 •  Steve Jeffery
 •  Martin Morse Wooster
 •  Eloise Belz-Decker
 •  Paul Campbell
 •  Brad Foster
 •  Max
 •  WAHF
 •  Does Your Gut Wobble When I Do This?

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[Plokta Online]

Lokta Plokta

Natasha Jacoby

At World of Wonder Television we are working on a documentary entitled The History of Cleavage, which is a celebratory look at the social, cultural, technological and indeed political history of the cleavage in the Western world, and will include contributions from social and fashion historians, cultural critics, filmmakers, anthropologists and designers—a journey which will take us from the courts of 16th century Europe (and before) to today's big business bra manufacture and society's cleavage obsession. The one-hour programme will air on Channel 5 in the New Year.

We found your website page which mentions that Sunday night is cleavage night at Plokta—what would this involve? The chest expander that you picture—is it simply a joke or was it purchased as a chest expander from somewhere? We are trying to locate people with enthusiasm for the cleavage—not simply for breasts (although that comes with the territory) but specifically for the cleavage, who might meet up in a convention or club type atmosphere.

Marcus L. Rowland

Some red tar and some black tar were drinking in a pub. Suddenly the door banged open and some green tar came in. "Oh hell, let's get out of here" said the red tar, "he's a total cyclepath."

Marcus L. Rowland (again)

You've reminded me of the Great Pigeon Disaster at the school where I work, in (I think) the late 80s or early 90s.

We had a small chunk of the metal along the top of the roof blown off in a severe storm, and for various reasons nothing was done about it.

Meanwhile pigeons began to roost in the exposed gap between the tiles and the lab ceiling. And they began to breed there... The snag was that once they were in this space they could move along the roof, and one direction took them into the casing surrounding the fume cupboard extraction ducts. And inevitably some managed to fall down the gap between the duct walls and the fume cupboards...

Needless to say we didn't realise what was going on at first, but we gradually noticed that there was a lot more pigeon noise than usual, including a lot of scrabbling which we at first thought was in the roof gutters. Then some of the pigeons in the roof died for some reason, and as the first maggots began to fall through (in the middle of a lesson, and on the book being used by a 12-year-old girl—scenes of mass hysteria following) the penny finally dropped.

So we opened up the casing of the fume cupboards and found several skeletons, a couple of half-rotted corpses, and two extremely weak live pigeons. The caretaker promised to do something about the roof, but didn't before the end of the term...

After the summer holidays I made some coffee, and gradually realised that the water tasted a little odd. And smelled very odd. During the time the school was closed some of the pigeons had got further along the roof and fallen into the water tanks, which were then the only supply for washing etc. in most of the school. In fact it's possible that this had been happening all along, but when the school was occupied and the loos were frequently flushed the water was changed so often that the taint never had a chance to build up.

Result—the school was closed for an extra week, while the roof was finally fixed and all of the ducts etc. were cleaned, and the tanks and all of the plumbing were flushed with liquid chlorine. It must have cost several thousand pounds, more if you count the funding we lost because of the extra closure. If they'd repaired the roof immediately after the storm it would have cost a couple of hundred.


With the brain-spannering news that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in USA because the Yanks don't know what a 'Philosopher' is and might become confused, I've made a delightful—if belated—realisation.

If ever I'm in the company of an American, I can inform it that I'm a fully qualified Sorcerer at a noted English University. If needed, I can produce photographic evidence, standing with my convocation robes and scarf by the historical University Obelisk.

SMS graduating D. Phil.There must be a way to turn this to my advantage...

Suggestions welcome.
B.Sorc. (Hons.)

SMS (again)

It's long past time that Sue Mason girl was given a proper job drawing for large amounts of money. Her lines are very clear and inventive, combining humour, exacting observation and sex-appeal in all its manifold morphologies. That this girl's still stuck drawing for some tuppney-hap'ney rag like Plokta just shows there's no bloody justice.

Oh yep, and re Ms Bell's letter: Please note "You haven't lived until you've seen M@ tiptoeing into a comittee-full lobby carrying a large stepladder and trying to look inconspicuous, with Eira running interference to distract the hotel staff..." should read "...with Eira and Sms running interference to distract the Reception staff...". She may well have been wielding the Breasts Of Power, but I was the one talking the all-important 'gettem into another room' doubleflap... and, heck, the 'interference' wuz my idea anyway... mutter grumble gnarf...

Joseph T Major

Wireless networking with Thionite! Wow, what a concept: The sysadmin took the capsule, pulled back the sheath, inserted it in his nostril, and took a whiff. The vision spread through his body like a powerful worm. It was all there, the T15 speed communications, the gigabit bandwidth, the perfect Bill-is-dead browser …

Andy Sawyer

Hail to the Cabal once more. In between appearing on multilingual panels at the Utopiales sf festival in Nantes and preparing for examiners' meetings and Ph.d vivas here's proof that Plokta 24 reached me. (Utopiales: Sitting opposite someone as they discovered a worm in an oyster wasn't too cool, but finding out that Ian MacDonald was a fellow Molesworth fan was, although what various Danes, Germans and Americans made of "any fule kno" and cries of "The Pukon!" and "Sigismund the Mad Maths master!" followed by fits of giggles was anybody's guess.)

I didn't get the point about the photo of the Italian politician allegedly resembling a dead sf writer. Does it matter which dead sf writer? Surely any dead sf writer will resemble an Italian politician after a while?

Jackie Duckhawk

We don't have pigeons, or mice, we have starlings. They're OK most of the year, but they make a hell of a racket for a month or so in the spring when they nest in our guttering, or somewhere up in the eaves. They appear to wear wooden clogs, and to put them on specially for jumping up and down enthusiastically when the sun rises. Katherine complains that the cheeping of the babies wakes her up, too.

Alastair's article was much enjoyed. Though if I could have one car in the whole world, that was just for me and didn't matter if it wasn't practical, I would have a Morris Traveller. The only car where you need a carpenter if you get rear-ended. I was brought up on them.

I have a trailer bike for Christopher, which is essential all the time the b******s at DVLA won't let me have a licence. He loves riding on it, but I do find it a bit wobbly if he loses concentration and looks around at Katherine—or if he gets over enthusiastic and starts pedalling like crazy. Some times he lets go of the handlebars, which I don't think is very safe. The funniest/scariest thing is the warning the bike salesman gave us: A danger when using a trailerbike is that small children sometimes get off when you stop in the middle of a junction.

Steve Green

Interesting that Joseph Nicholas should claim a photograph of an Italian politician bears a striking resemblance to an unnamed sf author: several years ago, I stumbled across a postcard portrait of George Eliot which was the dead spit of Joseph. Perhaps it was the flowing locks and enigmatic pout.

George Eliot
Joseph Nicholas

Joseph Nicholas

Received Plokta 24 this morning. Skimmed through it in search of a certain photograph. Found instead a comment in the WAHF column that Dave Langford had sent you "a photo of an Italian politician who, according to Joseph Nicholas, resembles a dead SF author, but unfortunately not mentioning which dead SF author". Forgive me for excessive naivety, but I'd have thought that the name L RON HUBBARD would have been too obvious to require spelling out.

Terry Jeeves

I sympathise with the tenting expedition as I spent several months under canvas in Bombay. The only good thing was that I got posted away before the monsoon arrived, a good thing as I had run an illicit power line to the tent and buried it (ordinary flex) in a 1" deep trench in the ground.

Amanda Baker

Alasdair's article on the Citroen DS was particularly impressive. I hadn't realised quite how like something from Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet it appears. I do remember learning to drive in a Citroen BX, a much later successor model which has hydraulic suspension and a similar braking ability to that described. We were pottering around a car park at Grafton Water near my mother's home in St Neots, and when ¡¡¡a toilet block jumped out in front of me!!! (the kind that you put toilets in, not the kind you put in toilets...), I did indeed stamp on the brakes in an inexperienced fashion, and almost "stand the car on its nose" as Alasdair describes.

Both Dave and I still have the odd name-tape here and there in our possessions, remnants of a similar dedication on the part of our respective mothers—I even had my name on my felt pens. Long since dried up and gone, of course. I always write my name, and the date, in my books; I know this will horrify the likes of Brian, but I always check for inscriptions in new secondhand books, and I like to get that echo of who might previously have loved this one. Also, it brings back memories for me, to be able to check the date in my own books, and thus remember more of where I was when that book first came into my life.

Marc Gordon

Alasdair Mackintosh's article on the Citroen DS was wonderful. French cars have a certain something (in my experience with Peugeots it was amazing rust problems, but that's a different rant). He hit it right when he writes about the decline of automotive design. I grew up in an American household with a father who loved the body designs of Pininfarina. He bought a Peugeot 404C (a convertible) in the early '70s. Only about 200 of the 404Cs were ever imported into this country. Through a certain amount of obsessiveness, opportunity, and the need for spare parts, we ended up owning five of them at one point.

The design was certainly not at the same level as the Citroen, but it was still something unique. And now I'll wander outside and remember that neither of these manufacturers even sell in the American market today (I don't think Citroen ever did). Ah well.

Milt Stevens

In Plokta #24, Alison discusses the problems of home infestation. Over in Knarley Knews, I mentioned some cousins of mine who had a somewhat larger problem with infestation. They live in Arkansas, and their place is quite green and lush and has a river running in back of it. Unfortunately, the river has alligators, and the alligators love to sleep under the back porch. Alison should be thankful for mice and pigeons.

Alison probably missed a commercial opportunity by not having a video camera around when she crushed that mouse. A couple of years ago, it was brought out in court that there is a genre of slash videos featuring women crushing mice. I guess it must be popular or the government wouldn't have illegalized it.

As Sue Mason mentions, having your name in things can sometimes produce unexpected results. Years ago, I bought a copy of the October 1939 Astounding with the famous Lensman cover and the first installment of The Gray Lensman by E. E. Smith. On later inspection, I discovered it was autographed. However, that wasn't the most interesting thing about it. The autographed inscription read "To Robert Heinlein, whose work I have admired since reading If This Goes On"—signed E. E. Smith. It appeared to be a real autograph, but I couldn't imagine how it would have left Heinlein's possession. I had never met Heinlein at the time, and that particular issue stayed in my collection for a number of years. When I eventually did meet Heinlein I asked him about the issue. He remembered it and thought he still had it. So I gave it back to him. Later, Heinlein sent me a first edition of Farmer in the Sky autographed on the day of the first Martian landing. So much for collector stories.

D West

Since we are coming up to The Season of Fanzine Production (otherwise known as Time to Do Something for the Novas) here's a couple of drawings.

Marisol Ramos

Alison, you sent me 4 wonderful Plokta zine and I haven't been able to locs them appropiately. I suppose I was overwhelm with the amount of information that you sent me. It will be a very long letter indeed for me to comment on all of them. But, unfortunately, time is not what I have these days. Graduate school is indeed a bane for leasure time. But, I don't want you to think that I have forgotten my duty of writing a locs in exchange of your beautiful present.

So here is my humble commentary about Plokta (I think the volumes you sent me—I am at work and sneaking so free time, so forgive me if I get something wrong—were #13, 14, 17 & 19)

First thing, I loved the cover art of #14, with #17 a close second. The first because is beautiful and haunting SF cover, the second because the "Dr. Who" style with your cute daughter is worth 1,000 words and more.

Talking randomly, I think the articles that I recalled the best were the one about the New Year Millennium party and the one about having your baby at home. The first because it gave me a great sense of being there with you folks celebrating the New Year in London, while the second was warm and beautiful story to share and make me think if I would want to do the same when the time comes for me to have my own children.

More in general, I love the style of your articles and it is fun to read about your fun friends doing stuff in England. I will try to keep reading Plotka online when school and work allow it, but I didn't want you to think that I was a bad neofan without any matters.

Henry L. Welch

I've never lived anywhere that was infested with pigeons. We had a problem one year with blackbirds, but they chose to nest somewhere distant from the house. Mice, on the other hand, I've dealt with more than once. I've found the only effective method is the spring-loaded trap with peanut butter as bait. Many years ago we built a dungeon diorama with balsa and paper mache. We stored it in the garage and a mouse promptly gnawed its way into void between the walls and the "mountain". Being a generally humane individual I tried to live trap it using a coffee can balanced at an angle with goodies in the bottom. The mouse thoroughly ignored it. After about a week of frustration I set out a spring trap, before I'd taken ten steps into the house I heard it snap. A quick final end to the "monster" infestation.

We even had a squirrel once climb down the chimney and through the heat exchanger of the furnace. The first time I saw it I only caught a good look at its head. It looked vaguely rat-like (squirrels are just rats with fuzzy tails), which concerned me since people in the next town over were fighting a major rat infestation. My second glimpse a day later (after the rat trap had been sprung and the peanut butter eaten) showed the big bushy tail. We borrowed a live trap from the humane society to no success and I even tried opening the drop ceiling in front of the open window. (The furnace room gave access to the space above the drop ceiling.) The squirrel would come down, smell the fresh air and was too chicken to leave the house. I eventually called a professional to live-trap the beast since I was not about to leave town for a week with the squirrel unattended.

Del Cotter

Sorry to hear from Janice Gelb about the War On (Some) Ear Candles. Will DVD copies of Shrek now be impounded on the grounds that they portray ear wax candles in a positive light?

Lloyd Penney

Mr. Bean's on the cover...just a short drive away is one of Yvonne's favourite coffee shops, The Yellow Cup Café, and sitting right beside the cash register is Mr. Bean, ready to grab the odd penny from your change, or a quick slurp of your coffee. No one there seems to know who he is, although I'd think anyone could recognize the rather unique features of Rowan Atkinson...

I found out that mice really love peanut butter. (I guess that makes it unanimous.) When I was living on my own and going to school, I was in a house full of mice, and I learned a neat trick...take a flat-bottomed paper lunch bag, lie it flat on one side, and smear a little peanut butter on the inside of the other side near the bag's bottom. A nearby mouse will sniff the lovely PB and scramble into the bag, and in trying to get to the PB on the upper edge, right the bag onto its bottom, neatly trapping himself. He doesn't care if he's been caught, he's noshing on the PB. He can then be disposed of humanely, or perhaps become a small bag lunch for a nearby cat.

As Marianne gets older, she may see more animé on television...then she will discover that a good portion of the population of Japan is male, 7'6" tall with lavender hair and weighing about 53 pounds. They also have eyes the size of billiard balls or larger. The women are either Sailor Scouts or Cardcaptors, or maybe they are one of the Dirty Pair.

The only James Nicoll I've known in Canada ran a gaming store in Kitchener, Ontario. I wonder if this is one and the same. I think I've seen that name the odd time I've lurked through rassf. Sounds like James was trying to sell you property on Kirkland Lake. Should have bought it, there's lots of moose up there...

Steve Jeffery

The best method to pill a cat is by using a large towel. First you wrap the cat in the towel and attempt to force the pill down its throat. Then you use the towel to wipe the bits of pill off your face and wrap it round you to staunch the bleeding.

Actually, I don't look very much like this at all.

Martin Morse Wooster

As an American, I find that there's a lot that I don't understand about British culture, even though I subscribe to The Spectator to learn the meanings of hard words, like "naff", "whinge" and "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells." But I've never seen the cereal that Ready Plok is based on. It must be a wondrous cereal indeed, as it converts kids' energy into electricity (probably through the catalysing power of concentrated sucrose). But it's clearly not an efficient cereal, since all the energy goes off into space, instead of being diverted into useful activities, like providing power for homes and zap guns. And perhaps if Marianne and Jonathan were wearing propeller beanies instead of triangles, they could use the Ready Plok as rocket fuel! [Ready Brek is instant porridge (oatmeal), "Central heating for kids".]

Alasdair Mackintosh's article on the Citroen was fascinating, but he doesn't answer the crucial question about the car. Why did a Citroen have to look like a duck-billed platypus? I look at the car, and I don't see a spaceship; I see a small furry mammal. Were there some secret Australiaophiles on the Citroen design staff?

Eloise Belz-Decker

Living above a restaurant as I do, I've had my own problems with Small Furry Non-Rent-Paying Tenants, and send you my best regards. Though I've found what's even more efficient than a cat (i.e., no bloody remains strewn about) is to let loose a corn snake or two. Does England have an equivalent native creature? I wouldn't want to necessarily import American herps just to combat Walthamstow's rodents. Like Sue, I have had homing possessions. I lost an earring at the beach, once (quite a unique thing, made out of a pendant depicting a rattlesnake in brass), and found it three years later while attempting to bury my cousin in the sand. By then, of course, I'd lost the other of the pair, so I still have just the singleton.

Just to toss in a shameless plug, through your good example and that of a few other friends, I'm going to be starting a perzine sometime soon. Any Plokta readers who might be interested may drop me a line at the above address to receive the first issue (once I finish writing it!).

Paul Campbell

As for superfluous technology, I've had a rush of it to the credit card lately; night starfinder with a red light; flea disperser with a blinking red light; battery powered mobile phone charger; red light on a keyring. The mobile charger doesn't have a LED but I'm working on it.

Paul Campbell (again)

I dunno about those new-fangled mechanical ear excavators, our doc still uses the syringes (they come in 2 sizes, 'bigger' and 'biggest') but it still took me 3 visits last time. 'Hopi Ear Candles'?? I've seen the picture, and from the look on Alison's face, she doesn't believe what she's doing either. I love the earnest Baxterian physics explanation, though—so where can I get some?

Brad W Foster

I loved the 'Mason West' artworks on page 7! (Not to mention, of course, enjoying the solo efforts of artists Mason and West elsewhere this issue.) It seems so simple now after seeing how Susan made it work, but then, the obvious is only obvious after someone else points it out to me. I suddenly have this urge to add glasses-and-cig-scowl to all kinds of drawings around the house!

I also enjoyed West's loc-ticle. I got a grin out of his first trick of modern art, as I learned that one myself long ago. As a lowly pen-and-ink artist, I was "only a drawer", unlike painters, who were "artists". It's when I came across the giant canvases of folks like Rothko that I realized for myself trick (or rule) #1. Paint a flat surface of color onto a single 10" square area, it's just color. Do it the size of a wall and put a title on it, it's "art".


Enclosed is a photograph I meant to send your way earlier. This is entitled "Seccond in a Series of Fannish Nipples", do with it what you will.

Dave with ripped shirt

We Also Heard From

WAHF: KRin, Cardinal Cox (with moose stuff), Alan Stewart (with a very late issue of Thyme and threatening to cut us off his mailing list), Pamela Boal, Tom Feller, Harry Andruschak ("Please announce in Plokta that copies of my apazine are available"), Wolf von Witting ("I am in love"), Sheryl Birkhead ("What is a propelling pencil?"), Ulrika O'Brien (including moose mat of comment and a piece of candy sushi with a stick up its fundament), John Hertz ("Do you know about Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion car?"), Yvonne Rousseau, Rodney Leighton ("I have decided to discontinue loccing fanzines"), ½r, Alan Sullivan ("People who contact us concerning Citroens are the lowest form of life"), David B Wake ("Put me down in the WAHF as someone with nothing to say"), Kate Schaefer, ("I'm so charmed by Chika Law being WAHFed") and Teddy Harvia ("Sue is a treasure both as a writer and an artist").

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