The Editor’s Rant: Issue #10

by Michael D. Pederson

 

It’s good to be small. It seems that every issue brings a new landmark. The milepost that we’re crossing this month reads “Respectability.” You should see the gleam in my eyes every time I tell people what I’ve lined up for this issue.

Our first double-digit issue. A cover by Frank Wu. A story from Steven Johnson.

A lot of people don’t recognize these names yet, but to me they practically scream cachet.

Frank Wu recently received his third Hugo nomination for best fan artist. I met him at last year’s Philcon and he made an indelible impression. I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with Frank and I truly believe that this year will be his lucky year at Worldcon.

Steven Johnson is a great writer of classic-style science fiction who has had two stories printed in Analog. I think this is our first cross-over from someone that’s appeared in one of the “big” magazines. I’m hoping for many more.

To further cement the theme of new-found respectability… Mere days before sending this issue to the printers I received a phone call from Del Rey Books asking if I would like to interview Bruce Sterling. Sure, I understand that they’re merely using me to promote their own interests but, darn it, this is the first time that any of the major publishers have paid us any attention. To me that’s a landmark.

And that’s not all that’s been going on around here. Exactly one year ago I printed a story by C.J. Henderson (“Wezleski to the Rescue”) that I thought had the potential to to be an ongoing series. When I requested another story in the series C.J. informed me that “Wezleski” had been intended as a stand-alone story but he’d think about doing another one. I’m pleased to say that not only will we be running the sequel, “Wezleski in Love,” in our next issue but C.J. has discovered that he has enough new ideas for the character to turn it into a full collection of stories that will be printed by Marietta Publishing. I’m proud to say that Nth Degree had a tiny part in that.

What’s in the near-future for the ’zine? We have now officially overflowed our banks. I have more fiction coming in than I could possibly hope to fit into a 32-page quarterly magazine. The solution? One: We will be featuring new weekly fiction on our website (www.nthzine.com). In addition to new fiction we are lining up some previews from upcoming novels as well. Two: We will finally be expanding to 48 pages. I know I’ve been threatening to do this for a while but it’s finally upon us. So, please send us your Letters of Comment to be included in our new Feedback page. We’d love to hear what you think.

As a final note, for everyone that’s wondering what happened to “The Annals of Volusius,” I’m afraid that I have to write that off as a failed experiment; the failure being mine and not the authors. Claudio Salvucci and Paolo Belzoni have created a brilliantly witty piece of science fiction humor that I’ve enjoyed since they sent me the first chapter but a small quarterly magazine just isn’t the place for a long serialization. After two years it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on. Don’t be alarmed though, we’ll conclude the story on our website.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for us at your local conventions!

 

Con Review: SheVaCon 12

ShevaCon12by Catherine E. Twohill

 

SheVaCon 12
February 27-29, 2004
Roanoke, Virginia

AKA Big Lick. Seriously. Nicknamed for the salt licks that attracted wildlife (and those who hunted them), the Capital of the Blue Ridge is a city that still thinks it’s a little town. In my opinion, it’s the perfect location for SheVaCon. The Holiday Inn Tanglewood is nestled on a hillside with quick access to dining, shopping, and a cinema. The hotel has a decent restaurant as well as a bar that serves more than just beige water on tap. However, it’s clear that SheVaCon is about to burst the seams on the joint. The registration area was abundantly buzzing with people, the gaming area hadn’t an empty seat to be found and every session I attended was practically SRO. SheVaCon organizers were proud to say that they saw a 30% increase in attendance over last year but stopped short of saying “now where do we go?”. How did they master such an increase—when every other regional Con saw a drop in their numbers? Solid guests (Charles Keegan was Artist GOH; Rikk Jacobs, Master of Ceremonies; Jim Butcher, the Writer GOH; and a massive turnout of Baen authors) and good programming; there were over forty unique events in less than sixteen hours of event schedule. The program guide, while slight on program descriptions, became an item to cherish for its thoughtful, touching series of tributes to Hal Clement, a writer, artist and gracious friend of fandom who passed away in late 2003. So, Robert Roberts and crew will have their work cut out for them in 2005 as they’re keeping the same location and, as always, looking to bring even more Fen together. We’re certain they’ll remain creative with their content. But, as in real estate, it’s all about location. SheVaCon 13 will be held the weekend of February 25-27, 2005. For more info, check out their website: www.shevacon.org.

 

Con Review: Stellarcon 28

Stellarcon12by Catherine E. Twohill

 

Stellarcon 28
March 19-21, 2004
High Point, North Carolina

Ah, Stellarcon. It will always be dear to me as, two years ago, Stellarcon 26 was my very first con. And what a way to be indoctrinated! Surrounded by a Garrison of mysterious men in stormtrooper gear. Hubba, hubba. Well, the 501st was back in even greater force this year. Along with others dressed in Star Wars attire, they collectively honored guest Timothy Zahn for his work in keeping the Star Wars stories going. Stellarcon’s Guests of Honor included Fred Saberhagen (Writer), Rowena (Artist), and Steven S. Long (Gaming). Rowena’s work gracing the cover of the program guide was really impressive.

StellarCon017

The cast of Disney’s next summer blockbuster or the entrants in StellarCon’s Masquerade? You decide.

Organized by the SF3 (Science Fiction Fantasy Federation from UNC-Greensboro) and held once again at the downtown High Point Radisson, Stellarcon’s overall program was just top-notch. Lots of well-crafted concurrent sessions, writer’s workshops, movies, a solid gaming track organized by the ubiquitous Ron McClung, and even an entire kids’ track all day Saturday. The Masquerade, while well-attended, was fairly average with most contestants literally running on and off the stage. And if one was looking for a quick break from the Con’s content, one could drop in to the hotel restaurant or bar and find writer John Ringo telling stories and holding court. Bill Mann, Jr., Stellarcon’s Chair, shared that plans for Stellarcon 29 are still a bit up in the air. As of this printing, their website (www.stellarcon.org) tentatively reports it will be held March 11-13, 2005, in Greensboro, NC. As a University-affiliated group, there are a number of rules they must follow to secure (hotel) contracts. They can only hope that the local businesses (hotels) support them in that process. We wish Bill and his great team the best of luck in getting next year confirmed and well-attended.

The after-hours social events at Stellarcon are always just as much fun as the daytime hours. As the date was fairly close to St. Patrick’s Day, the Nth Degree team couldn’t resist hosting a very green—and glowing!—shindig. Be sure to check out our next Con party to get your glow on. And I can’t end this review without givin’ the props to Bobba Fett. If swooning over a cold, somewhat sinister costume—and the stranger within—is wrong, I don’t ever wanna be right. And to think, two years ago, I was a Con virgin.

 

Con Review: Clovercon 2004

Cloverby Tee Morris

 

Clovercon 2004
March 19-21, 2004
St. Louis, Missouri

Where to begin?

When you throw a con, this should be the first question you, the Con Chair, and your staff of dedicated volunteers should ask before the first con attendee arrives. Exactly where do you need to begin to throw a good con? Do you book your guests and then concentrate on the programming? Or is the focus of your weekend concentrated in gaming tournaments, side-stepping the need for the obligatory guests of honor or panel discussions? Or is your plan to kick back with fellow fans and revel a few days away in a three-day party?

Where to begin?

A simple question that needs a simple answer, and with CloverCon 2004, a con in St. Louis held on the week of St. Patrick’s Day, this is a question that should be answered before their 2005 con.

Where to begin?

CloverCon is only in its second year, but they are in desperate need of deciding what kind of convention they want to be. At present, their biggest obstacle is deciding whether or not to be a convention that features guests, panels, and activities, or if they are a “Relaxicon” where Programming is as casual as the con’s attendees. If it doesn’t come to a conclusion as to what it wants to be, Clovercon may fall to a Leprechaun’s curse of bad luck and misfortune in attracting special guests.

I was traveling with Tony Ruggiero from Virginia, hardly “around the corner” from the Show Me State, but we found out that Clovercon’s Media GoH Bob Bergen (the voice of Porky Pig from Cartoon Network’s Duck Dogers) was flown in from Los Angeles, so there was an assumption that this event was ambitious and ready to come out of the box strong. Both of us were assured before flying out there that a schedule for programming would be in place, even though the website (www.clovercon.com) provided vague information for those interested in the weekend. We arrived at registration. No schedule was ready. We got word from the con chair that there would be a schedule in place by Saturday morning, so Tony and I assured ourselves this long trip was not in vain.

When Saturday morning came, so did the schedule. It was bad enough they had me on panels from 10 am to 4 pm with no breaks, but at 12 pm I was scheduled for three different panels in three different locations. “I was up until four this morning putting the schedule together,” said the Con Chair. It was clear that this schedule was, in fact, thrown together with no thought, care, or concern. Tony and I, grabbed breakfast and coffee, sat down, and rescheduled our events, giving ourselves uptime and downtime throughout the day. (A personal note: I doubt if many guests, literary, media, or otherwise, would do something like this. As Clovercon was a new convention, this luxury was offered. Tony and I were also determined to make the trip worthwhile.) Unfortunately, reprogramming our individual Programming did not solve all the issues Clovercon’s lackadaisical attitude spawned. Unlike past new conventions like JerseyDevilCon and ShowMeCon (another local St. Louis SF/F con) that would hold panels in convention rooms, meeting rooms, and (in some cases) hotel rooms, panel areas for Clovercon included the hotel lobby, bar alcoves, and a large banquet room. Perhaps the hotel had nothing else to offer, but what Clovercon offered were not great places for panel discussions. Panel setup was also given an overly casual approach. Media GoH Bob Bergen was told for his voice workshop that “people would just help themselves to chairs when they walk in.” For the price of Clovercon’s (or any con’s) admission, its staff needs to tend to details, provide for their paying customers, and assist their GoHs in presenting their panels or workshops. If this issue remains unaddressed, this con might find it difficult booking GoHs and assorted guests of any kind.

With this being said, why am I planning to go to CloverCon in 2005?

Again I ask, where to begin?

I have visited many cons in my first two years as a writer, but Clovercon featured some of the nicest, sweetest people I have met in fandom. The con staff were thrilled to be there and went out of their way made all the guests feel welcome. The St. Louis hospitality started with a pickup from the airport. A very nice touch. Then we were told that the CloverCon staff had bought several kegs for the weekend in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, so beer at the bar was free until Clovercon’s kegs ran out. (They were empty before Saturday night!) Opening Ceremonies was a mandatory event for all guests. It was mandatory because all the guests, not just the GoHs, were featured and introduced to con attendees present on Friday. That was a very nice, formal introduction. Another impressive trait of Clovercon was its Dealers’ Room. Along with two weapon makers that brought enough inventory to arm a small country, there were collectables (one in particular featured an impressive Farscape collection), anime, and fabrics that would make Hollywood seamstresses swoon! Finally, matching the enthusiasm of the Clovercon staff, the St. Louis fans were extremely amicable. While I still consider myself a “new kid” in the SF/F/H arena (and will for some time, I think), it means a great deal to me when fans welcome me into the fold, making a genuine effort to get to know me and my work, and welcoming me to “the SF/F fandom family.” At Clovercon, they went out of their way to do so. These fans (including the “Pudge Weasels” who inducted me and Tony into their club!) made the trip worthwhile and provided enough motivation for me to plan for Clovercon 2005.

It is this core of people, both Clovercon’s organizers and attendees, that will help this con achieve its potential. I can see it. Only in its second year, Clovercon could very well be a weekend of “Aeryn (Sun) Go Braugh!” and green beer served alongside blue Romulan Ale. I can see that spark. I think this con could grow to be a classic con if its staff buckles down and commits itself to holding a wonderful weekend of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, St Patrick’s Day style. The desire is there. The heart is there. The potential is there. But for Clovercon to reach that pot of gold at the end of the convention, they’ve got to get their act together in Programming, preparation, and a dedication to being what kind of convention it wants to be. Otherwise, CloverCon could fade away, much like a rainbow.

 

Con Review: I-Con 23

ICon23by Michael D. Pederson

 

I-Con 23
March 26-28, 2004
Stony Brook, New York

Every time I hear fans complain that kids don’t come to cons anymore, I want to pack them up and ship them off to Stony Brook to show them that some young adults really do attend conventions. This year was my third year attending I-Con and I’m still impressed with the huge numbers of college-aged fans that are in attendance. A lot of this is because, in addition to the art and literary programming, I-Con runs quite a bit of media and anime programming as well. Holding the con on a college campus doesn’t hurt either. This year’s guest list was pretty amazing, with Author GoHs Daniel Keyes and Connie Willis, Artist GoH Rowena, and Special Guests that included Scott Edelman, David Kyle, Stanley Schmidt, and Esther Friesner. Oddly though, with such an amazing array of literary talent gathered in Stony Brook, the programming schedule had the weakest literary track that I’ve seen in my three years at I-Con. It was a bit of a disappointment. Well, that and the fact that for the second year in a row our fanzine was placed on the “Cool Stuff” track rather than the Literary track. I don’t mind being considered cool but I’d much rather be placed on a track with my fellow writers and editors than on a track where the only other participants are Furries (I’m still not sure how I ended up on a Furry panel, but it turned out to be fun). These complaints aside, there was plenty to do and not enough time to do it all. I-Con seems to continue to grow every year and is billing itself as the Northeast’s largest SF convention. It looks to me like it’s becoming Dragon*Con North; I leave it to you to decide if that’s a good thing or not.

 

Con Review: Penguincon 2.0

Penguicon2by Rob Balder

 

Penguicon 2.0
April 16-18, 2004
Novi, Michigan

Not since JerseyDevilCon (a moment of silence, please) has a small con done such a successful impression of a major con. Penguicon 2.0, the second annual Linux/SF crossover convention in Michigan, not only booked an ambitious range of “A” list guests, created an intriguing program and activities schedule, but also scored major points for carrying it all out. What do I mean by “A” list? Well, if you had to have “a” guest for games, Steve Jackson is a good pick. If you had to have “a” guest for Linux, Eric Raymond (The Cathedral and the Bazaar) is a good pick, too. If you had to have “a” film/TV guest with a Linux connection and an internet celebrity status, you’d certainly choose Wil Wheaton. Pete Abrams is an a-lister for webcomics, Tom Smith an a-lister for filk, Hemos and CmdrTaco from Slashdot were a-listers for net culture, and Neil Gaiman is, of course, an a-lister for writer guest. But call it celebrity-redundancy, because the master engineers of Penguicon worked in a slew of other serious names in these fields: John Ringo and Sandra L. Brewer for authors, Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary), Fred Gallagher (Megatokyo) and me (PartiallyClips) for webcomics, Tony Goldmark, Worm Quartet and The Great Luke Ski for filk, Jon “maddog” Hall for Linux, and Vince Locke for art. All of this for a con with an attendance of less than 700. It boggles the mind how they pulled it off, but they did (except for Wil Wheaton’s unfortunate last-minute cancellation due to a movie audition). The con itself was held at the Sheraton in Novi, a nice, airy venue and very accommodating to the con. Among the many highlights: A great LAN room with net access and gaming, including “celebrity frag fest.” The Chaos machine, a constantly changing, fan-built and re-built kinetic sculpture with rolling marbles. An in-hotel theater which played host to a live-action RHPS performance (with John Ringo as Riff Raff), as well as a four-man tag team filk show and many other concerts and events. A marriage proposal by the con chair to his girlfriend at the end of the opening ceremonies (she accepted). And the snapping of the now-famous “Tronguy” pics of Jay Maynard, internet celebrity.

 

Con Review: New Jersey Zine Fest

by Michael D. Pederson

 

New Jersey Zine Fest
April 18, 2004
New Brunswick, New Jersey

This was a fun little one-day gathering for many of the Jersey-area zine publishers and distributors. We packed a room in the Women’s Studies Department of Rutgers for most of the day. It was a very young and energetic crowd and I felt quite pleased to represent the science fiction community in a crowd that still (surprisingly) remembered that they are the great grandchildren of the our original ’zine movement. Plans are underway for a Philly Zine Fest on June 11.

 

Oracle

by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

 

Man’s jarring foothold
A slowly whirling dervish
Drifts infinitesimally by
Breaking up the symmetry
Of heaven’s stunning starscape

Polycarbonate coffins
Jettisoned in a final
Reverent journey
Across the sky
Silhouetted against
A shattered, ash-grey globe
Once marbled blue
As a comet’s tail
Like falling tears
Mourns the dead
Of eternity

The Mother has not outlived
Her children

 

Book Review: Cloak of Obscurity

CloakOfObscurityby Michael D. Pederson

 

Cloak of Obscurity
Angela P. Wade
Self-Published, 193 pp.

I’ll be honest, I expected to read the first chapter of this book and then toss it in my “give-away” box. With a simple black and white cover and no publisher’s imprint (not even a vanity label!) I had all but written it off as a cheap hack job. (Yes, I do seem to recall hearing something in the past about not judging a book by its cover.) Imagine my surprise to discover a thrilling, yet whimsical, fantasy/mystery. Wade doesn’t fall into the trap of attempting to write a grand epic fantasy and instead settles for a shorter effort that goes a long way to bringing some fantasy back to the genre. The book proclaims itself to be “an excerpt from the memoirs of Master Edward Red Mage.” Edward is a young, carefree magician who—although being naturally talented and with important court connections—prefers to live the simple life, surrounding himself with good friends and good food. When one of those friends is accused of murder it’s up to Eddie to straighten things out. Light-hearted humor, sharp plot twists, and engaging characters make this delightful little novel a worthy read. The book can be ordered online at www.apwade.com.

 

Book Review: Dragon’s Fire Wizard’s Flame

DragonsFireby Krisi Pederson

 

Dragon’s Fire Wizard’s Flame
Michael R. Mennenga
Dragon Moon Press, 248 pp.

Have you ever heard of a dragon with no fire? Well in this book there is a seventy-five-year-old fireless dragon named Zac. The story is about Zac going out to find his fire and finding adventures and friends along the way. What Zac didn’t know was that he was going to start an adventure in which he meets three new friends—Abraham (a moose), Jo (a squirrel), and Neft (a wizard)—finds a dragon from his childhood called Tyralus, and makes a new enemy named Erret. Zac’s parents (mom Athena and dad Ellayo) have stood up for him for his whole life and also play a role in the story. The book also talks about Zac’s crush on a beautiful dragon named Timelda. Since Zac was a fireless dragon, other dragons did not allow him to even look at her because they thought that if they got married and had kids there would be a whole chain of fireless freaks running around.

The story begins when Zac walks out of his home and sees a large creature standing there looking at him. So Zac walked closer to the creature to ask if “he knew where his fire was.” That was when he met his friend Abraham. When they met Jo they were traveling through a meadow (Jo’s meadow). On the second day they all ran into a monkey named Erret. Erret carried his own little staff because he used to be a very evil wizard but another wizard named Neft made him very weak and turned him into a monkey. Erret started taking power from Zac. Fortunately, Zac and his friends met Neft and he helped them with Erret. One day they ran into Tyralus and together Tyralus and Neft gave Zac a staff and trained him to use magic.

Neft, Zac, and Tyralus had to battle Erret and trap him in a powerless world. When they did that Zac went home and proved that he was not a freak. He and Timelda talked and Zac told her that “he could not stay but he would come to visit her a lot.”

Overall, I liked this book a lot. On a scale of one to ten I would give it a nine. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventures, dragons, and magic.