I've finally cracked the code, answered the riddle, figured out the subtext. I know why Plokta is so full of news, photos and jokes about Alison and Steve's baby, Steve and Giulia's wedding. No, it isn't just because that's what's been occupying your collective minds and time for ages. (That's too easy and too self-referential.)
It's your subtle way of silencing any rumors or suppositions that joint editors must be having it off (or on) with each other. Of course not! Steve's obviously happily and busily paired with Alison, while the other Steve (photos supplied to prove they're two different gits) is now thoroughly and publicly hitched to Giulia. Congratulations to all on the new babe, the marriage, and the success of the campaign.
I met Giulia in Sydney in 1983 at the Australian National Convention. I remember well that she explained just why there were Spy Planes Over Tasmania. However, I had no memory of what she looked like, so the photos in Plokta are a revelation. Maybe it's the wedding dress, but she looks positively regal.
All Fandom will be eternally grateful to you for granting us a view into that New Epicentre of Trufandom, the Langford Manse. But, you know... I had a friend who had in his house a scale model showing the exact same thing as that picture. And this was in 1963! Could it have been... time travel? Precognition? The truth is out there!!
But your title would make such a great word. From "The Secret Life of Jophan Mitty"...
Interstellar Patrol Commander Mitty stood at the bridge of his spaceship, the James T, waiting for the order to lift off. Far below in the bowels of the ship there sounded a running pump -- 'plokta, plokta, plokta'...
Interlineation: "The X-Files is just Scooby Doo for the nineties". Well, excuse me in advance for taking an interlineation seriously, but I wonder about that. In Scooby Doo they always found out the mystery, and it was always a hoax. Whereas if Mulder and Scully were ever to get anywhere near the solution to anything, Cigarette-Smoking Man would pull a lever and redo the entire metrical frame of the universe to undo it. So are you saying that the nineties is the era of failure? Think carefully!
Richard Brandt with his electrifying discourse on how he was energized to do well in school makes himself out to seem dislocated. He should have been at Disclave with the other folks there, showing them how not to pull sprinkler heads out of the ceiling.
"The X-Files is just Scooby Doo for the Nineties". Wrong, wrong, wrong. I did a serious scan through the surrounding LoCs to see if this was a quote from one of them, but could find no trace. So I will address my displeasure at this gross misunderstanding of one of the seminal TV programmes of the seventies at the cabal. The overwhelming theme of The X-Files is that aliens, and the supernatural beings are real. The overwhelming theme of Scooby Doo is that such supernatural events are not real.
Whenever Scully proposes a plausible explanation for unusual events, by the end of the show, we see that it was Mulder's supernatural explanation that was correct, although in some cases only we the audience see it, and not the characters. Compare this with Scooby Doo where the explanation of supposedly supernatural happenings is invariably prosaic, usually involving the old caretaker wearing a rubber mask. Scooby Doo exemplifies the triumph of science and reason over superstition, while The X-Files panders to the mystical, the pseudo-scientific and the irrational. We can also criticise The X-Files in comparison to Scooby Doo in regard to the role models it sets for today's youth, can the bimbo main characters of The X-Files compare with the erudition and laser-precise logic displayed by the otherwise un-glamorous Velma? Scooby Doo is also not afraid to feature characters who prefer an alternative lifestyle, and how uplifting to see that even a speech impediment cannot hold back an otherwise intelligent dog from its chosen vocation.
[September 1997: For possibly the last word on Scooby Doo, we suggest you go look at the wonderful Saturday Morning Shakespeare . We had wanted to reprint this in Plokta, but the author, Michael Schiffer, wasn't keen. -- Ed]
I am particularly impressed with Dr. Plokta's Guide to Science Fiction, it is a work of great scholarship, and the good Doctor fully deserves the plaudits of a grateful fandom. With this guide I can now discard my copy of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and use the reclaimed shelf space for some of the 17 books on the list I haven't read. My sole quibble is that The Martian Chronicles should also have the symbol for the theme of religion. I would also be interested in knowing the criteria for the selection of each book for the list, as some entries surprised me by their inclusion in such august company, particularly Kathleen Ann Goonan's Queen City Jazz, which despite the exotic imagery had a plot which intensely irritated me, due to its clumsy use of obvious plot devices.
As for lucid dreams, I wish I was able to direct my own, since those I recall usually feature my arachnophobia and end with a moment of sheer terror. The prospect of sharing lucid dreams might seem remote, but surely this is only matter of applying sufficient technology to the problem. Research into recording brain activity using Superconducting QUantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) has been happening since the eighties, and there would be a highly lucrative market for shared dreaming, particularly if, as Alison says, the main purpose would be would be virtual sex (i.e. SQUID sin is quid's in).
Dismayed to discover there's no drugs, loony feminism or deviant sex in Take Back Plenty. Sounds to me like time for a revised edition...
Beggars in Spam is good, though. If you enjoyed this book, why not try The Bisto Cordwainer Smith, The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornedbeefius or Bouillion-17?
Ballard. Fie on you ignorami for missing one of Ballard's big symbols, especially since it fits your amazing conclusion: sand, sand, sand, Vermilion Sands, A Cage of Sand, The Terminal Beach, and heaps of deserts too (The Drought).
Bester. Wot, no acknowledgement of time travel in Tiger! Tiger!
Delany. Can't help thinking Dhalgren should score a Teenage Angst or two.
Kress. Extra credit for Dr Plokta if the title Beggars in Spam was, in fact, deliberate. [Yup. -- Ed.]
Smith, Cordwainer. If you'd picked the definitive collection The Rediscovery of Man, you have trawled in a celebrated story called (dramatic pause) On the Sand Planet.
White. Good heavens, how did you overlook the sand in the recreation area of Sector General?
Wolfe. Surely no visible time travel or cannibalism in Shadow of the Torturer? Suspect you mean the whole Book of the New Sun. And ... da da ... a short episode in Shadow that you missed is set in The Sand Garden.
Meanwhile, I'm not sure whether to hide my old snaps and slides of 1970s convention horror, or to lend them gleefully to you. It all depends on the offers I get from the subjects.
PS: Forgot to mention the celebrated beach scene in Tiger! Tiger! ... with sand. A scene that is visited twice, because of the time travel. I suppose it would be pushing my luck to argue that the protagonist of The Shockwave Rider not only went in childhood fear of sand -- that is, of being sanded or beaten up (from S and D, search and destroy) -- but at an early stage of the book adopts the pseudonym Sandy?
The mystery of Plokta is no more. So what's a vraidex?
I'm tired, having already his evening locced Thyme, Ansible, and Adventures In Failure. The last loc, to Kev McVeigh, was the longest of the three. He needs the egoboo more than you lot. Of course, there's no point sending a long loc to Langford, unless you have a viewing device to read the microdot form in which he publishes. He is deaf, and he wants to make his readers blind. Oh yes, I am tired. A good thing I don't drink.
Yes, yes, it was still pretty funny and thank god I escaped having my picture taken again. [See Convocation report] Not that it would have mattered if I'd been at Hay on Wye with you since I can't recognize even good friends in that photo, anyway. Alison looks rather good in that breast-feeding photo and I wonder if she has considered a career in SM pornography.
Yes, as a matter of fact I did chuckle at the sex fantasy bit - you couldn't do better than Dave Mooring in one of those touchable shirts he always wears...
Speaking as one who has been known, on the odd, rare occasion, to let the odd crumb of carping criticism tumble from his lips re your publication, I suppose it only fair to eat one's words when the occasion arises. The latest Plokta was good, and contained one particularly excellent piece in Dr Plokta's Guide to Science Fiction, certainly saved all that time wasted actually reading Anne McCaffrey, one sight of the rabbits was all I needed to know. Liked the rest of the ish, but was rather appalled at Sue Mason's astonishing naivety. Anyone knows that what she should have done was firmly order said feline to leave the spider alone on pain of death. After a brief pause for hysterical laughter, the cat would inevitably have piled right in.
I keep seeing photos in your pages of a chubby guy with glasses, short hair and what appears to be a moustache, with the name Pat McMurray attached to the photos. Yet mentions of this person in your, and other zines, refer to "she." Am I making a mistake in my interpretation of the photos? Or are you confusing me? [Ssh. Pat doesn't like people mentioning her hormonal problems].
I agree with Alison about the primary value of lucid dreams, as I've had several in my life. In addition to bonking, I must add flying as my second favorite thing to do when I've realized I'm dreaming. (However, Freud thought that flying was symbolic, so we're back to bonking again.)
I'd eat some chocolate while writing this loc, but I used up the last piece comforting my beloved, who was mauled by hyenas this afternoon at work. (He says he likes his job, but I'm starting to worry.) I find it delightful that the annotations on Parliamentary bills are in a language that is the native tongue of no living person. Saves you arguments over idioms, I suppose.
Did the BBC really hire a prostitute for election-night coverage? I doubt any of our networks would have the courage, or silliness, to do such a thing. (I giggled, even on rereading, at the image of 497 Plaid Cymru MPs. There is no US equivalent for this, of course; while our politics is somewhat regional, our parties all make at least a pretense of having support throughout the country.)
Thank you for letting us all know that the major theme of science fiction has been sand; lacking a statistical database, I had thought it was vacuum. Having never managed lucid dreaming (nor tried very hard, truth be told), but being a denizen of ElderMOO, I find the comparison of the two interesting. And a combination would be nice, though I suspect we'd be a little more careful with some of the outré verbs if the MOO provided a full sensory experience, or even good visuals, of fallen champagne bottles and silly string all over everything. I suspect the Orbital Mind Control Lasers explain a lot about E. B. Frohvet, including Frohvet's former propensity for referring to himself(?) in the editorial plural even when writing locs. This tendency did, however, enable me to feel vaguely justified in using "they" as a non-gendered pronoun for a specific person whose sex I do not know. Nonetheless, I'm just as pleased that Frohvet has learned to write "I," even if it leaves me using pronouns with question marks.
If you have not received this letter, I thought better of the whole thing in the morning.
Your fanzine gets funnier with each issue, your claims to the contrary only making me laugh harder. Your literary allusions paraphrasing Dickens and Julius Caesar impress me. The editors of certain large, heavy fanzines should take note. Now if only interlineations would die with William Burroughs, their biggest proponent, I could die happy and unbaffled.
Just one waffer-thin interlineation, Mr Creosote?
How did you know I had a fondness for rodents in uniform? The savages pictured on your back cover were particularly appealing. Woof, woof!
Your guide to SF was completely useless except for entertainment. Congratulations on practising superfluous technology, not just preaching. Joe Mayhew's over-the-top screensaver is true to life. Ours make noises not unlike cats destroying stuff, which of course we must investigate. Rowr!
Alison's description of Parliament confirmed all my American attitudes toward the British government. The election coverage, however, seemed quite familiar, though I haven't bothered to watch much of ours for years. Once in school, the teacher decided to have the class hold a mock election. She assumed it would be Republican versus Democrat, but I led a campaign for the Socialist candidate -- Norman Thomas, as I recall -- and he came in second. The teacher didn't comment....
Cats. Juanita brought in two kittens from our wild pack some years ago. (At one time we had 22 barn cats. I scattered catfood on an old table outside and let them go at it; a friend remarked that it was the first time he'd seen a feline feeding frenzy.) The two who became inside cats were littermates; one very smart and one very stupid. The smart one died last winter; the stupid one is still around and still stupid. He knows just enough to eat and now and then purr; otherwise he's a black beachball. Not entertaining, but also probably not smart enough to get by outdoors.
[We had a horde of outdoor cats when we were living in Italy. We adopted this scrawny female, and then the local tom came along, and then there were kittens and the kittens grew up and started having kittens (by their father, cats not realising that this is politically and genetically incorrect) so that we swiftly found ourselves feeding a good dozen or so. It would have been more, but occasionally we culled the kittens, when the mothers were obviously overwhelmed and were too young. They tended to be lean and tough, one of them specialised in catching snakes which she would then eat and throw up all over the front lawn... (Steve)]
Spiders get favourable treatment here because they catch flies. We have a relatively fly-free environment because the spiders are hard-working little buggers.
Son Bruce had no problem with the shadow of his parents. Since Juanita and I were mostly fanzine fans, he became a fan club member and convention fan, working on concoms and publishing the club newsletter for a time. (Later, we joined him as convention fans -- and hucksters, which he hasn't done yet.) He's also living with two femmefans, which I would have liked to do but couldn't, back in the straight and narrow 1950s.... Our granddaughter is only 5, so there's time for her -- and fandom -- to develop another speciality.
I've been poor all my life, Skel, so the child didn't change anything except that I went out and got a better job when I knew he was coming along. (I started out as a gravedigger at age 14 and gradually worked my way up, in a couple of meanings of the phrase.)
I developed sciatica this spring, which is a pain in the ass, literally and figuratively. When I heard the diagnosis, I almost said, "But that's a disease of old people!" Then I remembered that I'm 69, and kept quiet....
I felt I had to loc Polkta just so Murray Moore could have an English address to look at. Couldn't you get Eric Brown ("Mythholmes Lane" -- one of the all-time great addresses) to write in as well? Mind, I don't see what Murray is going on about, living in a place with the wonderful name of Manly Street: I imagine an entire estate with names like Testosterone Terrace, Butch Lane, or Just A Teeny Bit Camp Avenue.
Regarding Dr Plokta's Guide to Science Fiction, I think it's far more rewarding to misread the key, as I did, and take the symbol on the right to be the relevant one. Thus Inverted World's theme is deviant sex and Foundation is about alternative histories and disembodied minds, and as that's about right anyway I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't read over the piece again and tried to interpret 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea as a manifesto of loony feminism. I'm sure it could be done.
Perhaps I'm not part of the fannish family after all -- no-one has ever commented that I've grown at Novacons (or any other cons). On the other hand, people have been known to say "You're not really wearing that shirt with that jacket," so I see what Alison means, after all.
And a serious bit -- were you at that Novacon a couple of years ago where someone whose name I forget described his research on lucid dreaming, which was partly focused on whether it was possible to have shared lucid dreams? One of the things he came up with was how to awaken from a lucid dream. The answer, apparently, was to switch the light on. If you attempt to switch the light on, apparently, your brain realises that you cannot actually do this (for reasons which totally escape me but are probably to do with the fact that the power companies have not yet managed to connect Dreamspace to the National Grid) and you wake up. I've never actually tried this, because I can never find the bloody light switch. I did use to jump off bridges and cliffs on the grounds that before I hit the ground I'd be sure to wake because otherwise I'd be dreaming that I was a sort of raspberry goo, and it actually worked. But the logic of that would be to test whether this life is a dream by carrying out a similar experiment, and that sounds uncannily like what people are reported to do on dodgy acid. So on balance it's not, probably a good idea.
[Personally, I was quite impressed with Buck's address, which looks more like a latitude and longitude than a real address to me. Wouldn't it be cute if we could just put GPS location codes on envelopes?]
Your last issue proves you to be connoisseurs of the misuse of the word "literally". I'd like to share with you a few examples of this particular perversion, all culled from the same source. This is a book with the delightful dedication "To my dear uncle and aunt, Count and Countess Wass of Czege, in remembrance of many happy days spent in Transylvania".
The volume in question is The Old Man in the Corner, a collection of mystery stories by Baroness Orczy. Among its yellowing pages, I have thrilled over the following discoveries:
Curiously. the Baroness (or possibly her narrator, for all these examples are taken from reported speech) has no trouble with "metaphorically". To pick a couple of examples of accurate although strained use:
And my very favourite line from this book:
If an email of comment is an Ewok, is a postcard of comment a Peacock?
I've been paid good money to write SF book reviews, and until better money comes along, I'll probably keep at it, despite the occasional editorial buggery. However, your iconised review system could well put us reviewers out of business. Your review of Little Fuzzy as three units of twee with seafood, your use of the Windows logo for bugs, and the like could reduce the whole Skiffy lit-crit business to obscure mandarin poetry. Of course it could also, as in the Chinese pictographic system which bridges so many divergent dialects, lead to a wider misunderstanding.
I'm glad the Tories are out. You Brits haven't had a whit of good government since the Whigs disbanded.
I have an idea I wrote last time to Alison, out of a vague idea that she might get fewer letters than you on account of the fact that her name and address appear second. Now, it seems to me likely that other people might have had the same idea, so I'm redressing the imaginary balance. I can't find which of you is running the letter column this time, so I'll just mention the fact that I have sent Murray Moore a copy of Hyphen, as I apparently said I would do in my last letter. It turns out to be #27, March 1961, an issue of which I appear to have a small surplus, due to the fact that according to the editorial 20 subscriptions expired with this issue. I know this because for the first time in years I know where the back issues of Hyphen are, they having come to light during the Big Move to our new house last year, an upheaval which ranks up with the comet that destroyed the dinosaurs, if you can imagine one that brought the dinosaurs back to life.
I appreciate Dr Plokta, especially on world domination. His guide to science fiction, however, leaves me not so much cold as snow blind from trying to decipher the keys to his themes.
Alison is interesting on conscious dreaming, I remember I used to be able to do this myself, but I've forgotten how.
Sue is quite poignant about her crap cat, but I didn't know that cats were supposed to catch spiders. This duty is not so far as I know listed among the duties of cats as set out by Rudyard Kipling. You know "I am the cat who walks by himself and all places are alike to me." Not a word about spiders.
I hope Murray appreciates his copy of Hyphen. It has a report by Bob Shaw of an international archery match and articles by Jeff Wanshel, Ron Ellik and John Berry.
I think my ideal Election Night would have consisted of curling up in front of the television with my computer and optional beautiful woman, watching the BBC coverage and Julian White's electoral profiles web site, swapping analyses with the other denizens of uk.politics.electoral while the beautiful woman makes coffee. But then I'm sad.
I was delighted to receive and read the latest Plokta. However, I was less than thrilled to be threatened with a mailing list cull, if I did not 'contribute'.
Being middle class, I'm not very good at complaining but I think this is grossly unfair. Michael, John and Pam never make me do things for their fanzine, and other men have been known to thrust them upon me before we've even been introduced.
I think there must be some confusion of identity and you must be thinking of some other beautiful and intelligent, gorgeous, pouting, raven-haired woman you have encountered recently. (Please feel free to delete any of these adjectives if you don't want to be invited to dinner again. I can always get someone else to eat the smoked mackerel paté, chicken Parisienne and chocolate soufflé I was planning to cook just for you.) Allow me to set you straight. I'm the one who does parties (and people who cull me from their mailing list may find the invitations to my housewarming on 27 September and my New Year's Eve party on... New Year's Eve fail to arrive in the post). I'm a social fan. I'm not meant to write to, for or at fanzines. Conversations about the decline of fandom and how much better fandom was 20 years ago leave me cold. Anyone standing within 20 yards of me in the bar has already heard all about my personal life (such as it was) and what precisely do you mean about chipmunks, anyway? If you are going to get into bestial comparisons, then I recommend 'Thumper', although Plokta may have to become much shorter.
I need my limited creative fiction skills to survive at work. How else would I get my timesheet filled or explain the perfectly natural reasons why a teensy weensy little deadline got missed. I can't possibly use up my limited supply on Plokta. If you really need your letter column filled that badly, then I suggest you remove the sample of DNA you find under the stamp and pass it to Dr Plokta for use in his cloning labs.
Robert J Newman
I liked the bit about my attempt to get you to register for Lazlar Lyricon II; it was more or less accurate (what's the matter with you? Are you trying to give fanzines a good name? Don't you realise that the Croydon fandom way to win an award is to fill dozens of pages with factually inaccurate waffle about things that happened in Croydon years ago?) However I would make four points.
1. The reason we're holding LL2 in the Quality Scotch Corner Hotel (it's on a corner and it is a hotel) is primarily because InCon 5 was held there and it was a bloody good con hotel. We had never been to the Bestwood Hotel when we launched LL2 and thus did not pick the QSC Hotel primarily because of its larger size as you suggest. The QSCH didn't even protest about the goldfish in the bathtub or the complete trashing of room 217.
3. If you're going to slag off my convention the least you could have done was to give the full details just in case any of your readers are anorak-wearing media fan who would actually prefer a weekend of Hitch Hiker's Guide fun and frolics to a Convention where the highlight of the day is a panel on the politics in Fred Pohl novels (which admittedly is a very interesting subject... erm... perhaps I'm on the wrong Con Committee).
4. Where did number 2 go?
2. Ah, here it is.
LL2 is being held in Darlington over the weekend of 22nd -- 25th May 1988. Sae to ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, 67 South Park Gardens, Berkhamsted, Herts, HP4 1HZ. And it really will be like Year of the Wombat only better, honest guv, would I lie to you?
Somehow I have a feeling I'm going to get WAHFed.
<name> Alex McLintock </name>
Dear Dr Plokta
<p> I must apologise for the lack of LoC from myself. I must say that I receive every copy of <i>Plokta</i> with glee. I jump straight to the pictures which I am always impressed by. In vain I search for my picture but either I shave too often, or I just don't breast feed enough. </p>
<p>I am working for a new company in Ealing in London which is an off-shoot of Mitsubishi Electric. It is involved in Digital Publishing (which basically means the Web). When I went for the interview I got a demo of their web product, and I demo'ed mine. Mine was better and I got offered the job. What made me accept was the fact that the guy was using a 21 inch monitor on his desk, and no one had anything smaller than 17 inches. "We get them cheap from Mitsubishi".</p> </body>
OK, chaps, what have I done? You sent an issue of Plokta to Mark, which is how I know there is one. You sent an issue of Plokta to Dop, who clearly didn't appreciate the baby pictures. But me -- the person who gave you not a bad review at all in Matrix -- not a sausage, or even a fanzine. Waaaaa, to coin a phrase.
We show you ours -- and don't even insist you read them -- so won't you show me yours? [It was a mistake -- honest!]
We Also Heard From:
David Wake (Pop round to mine for a party on the 20th September 1997 to usher in the seventh millennium), Kari (I'll write you a piece on bendy HK stars), The Hampshire Slash Fan and her Sex Kitten, (So, Dr Plokta, threats now is it? LoC it or lose it, hmm?), Harry Andruschak, (Thunderbird does not make a good mouthwash), Andy Hooper, (I just wanted you to know I hadn't intentionally snubbed you), Mike Ford (I come from Leeds I come from Leeds I come from Leeds I come from Leeds), Lisa Major, (The aliens are welcome to my sirloin steak (I seldom eat red meat these days)), Bruce Townley, (Clever use of the Windows 95 dingbat in Dr. Plotka's Guide To Science Fiction), Marcus Rowland, (Dr. Plokta's Guide to Science Fiction is obviously the essential reference to SF in the 21st century; the symbols should be added to the cover of every new work, and the scheme should be extended to other genre fiction).
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