The Editor’s Rant: Issue #4

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Wow. There’s so much to cover this month. Since our last issue we have been to Con José (the 60th World Science Fiction Convention) and Dragon*Con, moved our offices, and redesigned our cover. For starters, I want to apologize for the slight delay in getting this issue out. I blame the move. Whoever you talk to, wherever you go, the only opinion that everyone everywhere seems to agree on is this: Moving sucks. I’d like to think that one day in the far future this will be different but I know better. The clones you generate to help you move will still track mud all over the house and demand more beer and pizza. All the good anti-grav units will be rented out and you’ll be stuck with one that tips to the left no matter how many times you kick it. And your matter-transporter will strip the labels off of every one of your boxes, forcing you to guess at which box has that file that really needs to be shipped off two days after you move. Yep, moving sucks.

Amidst all the confusion, however, I still found time to travel out to California for Con José. This was my second World Con—I made it to last year’s convention in Philadelphia but was too busy preparing for the Masquerade to really enjoy the con. (Best in Class – Masters Division if you’re curious.) This year I made sure to get in as much elbow-rubbing as possible (see our con coverage on page 4) which included a panel with fellow ’zine publishers. We sat around for an hour and gratuitously complemented each other on the fine publications we were all putting out. There were also some very amusing discussions on how everyone got started, what their goals were, and how they came up with their names. I thought the subject interesting enough to dig through my archives and present the list of names that were considered before we settled on Nth Degree. If you’re looking to start your own ’zine soon, help yourself…

We started with the misapprehension that we should work the word “zine” in to the title somehow: CognoZine, SceneZine, Zeenic, Zeenix, Zined, and ZineOphobe were the original suggestions that we batted around. Then came a round of reasonable science fiction sounding ideas: Stand By…, Chrome Magnon, Prose and Cons, and Probed were all considered briefly. After that we took a detour into attention-grabbing unusual names: Mike’s Magazine, Anything But Goth, The Hotel Lobby Hot Dog Report, 9 NonGoths, and Meatspace all generated some interest as well.

Some were thrown out because they were already taken, some were just too darned silly. In the end though, we’re happy with our choice. Now sit back, pour yourself a drink, and enjoy the latest issue of The Hotel Lobby Hot Dog Report!

 

Con Review: ConJosé 2002

ConJoseProgramBookby Catherine E. Twohill

 

ConJosé 2002
The 60th World Science Fiction Convention
August 29 – Sept. 2, 2002
San José, California

A gathering of giants; a warren of writers; a phantasm of fans… Oh, how to describe this year’s Worldcon? I’ll cheat and use them all… The 60th World Science Fiction Convention, held in multiple venues around the city of San José, represented a weekend full of events, concurrent sessions, an immense dealer’s room and, a personal favorite, an appearance by Patrick Stewart. The Captain flew in to share previews of both X2 and Star Trek: Nemesis. Those who believe Mr. Stewart to be charming, eloquent and handsome were not disappointed.

Layout 1Okay, back to the Con… ConJosé as it were.

ConJose1The mayor of San José proclaimed August 29th through September 4th National Science Fiction Week for San José and Silicon Valley—a nice touch that brought a level of importance to an already important event. ConJosé’s Guest of Honor roster included Vernor Vinge (Writer GOH), David Cherry (Artist GOH), and John and Bjo Trimble (Fan GOH).

The key event of each year’s Worldcon is the presentation of the Hugo awards. Members of the World Science Fiction Society nominate and vote for those writers and artists they hold in highest esteem for their work over the previous year. See this article’s sidebar for the 2002 winners. Voters who are also ’zine readers, take note that Nth Degree is not listed as a winner in the Fanzine category nor were we nominated. We’re new. We’ll be patient. In addition to the Hugo awards, the location of the 2005 World SF Convention was voted on. The result: Glasgow, Scotland, August 4-8, 2005.

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David Brin taking questions before reading from his new novel, Kiln People.

While ConJosé had the requisite number of Klingons and winged fairies, the real draw of the weekend was the chance to rub elbows with writers whose names line your personal bookshelves. Among the scribes: Silverberg, Barnes, Card, Brin, Benford, Bear, Clement, Niven, and Turtledove (excuse me, Mr. Turtledove, would you like a copy of Nth Degree?).

One of the most popular sessions was entitled “1,000 Ideas in One Hour” led by Orson Scott Card. Like a writer’s workshop on speed, Mr. Card led the attendees through the process of developing a plot line. It was a packed, attentive, and participatory audience. Exactly what you’d expect from a literate crowd.

Next year’s WorldCon is off to Toronto, Canada. It will be held August 28th – September 1st, 2003 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Guests will include George R.R. Martin, Frank Kelly Freas, Robert Bloch, and Spider Robinson. For more information, visit their website at www.torcon3.on.ca.

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Orson Scott Card leading a packed workshop at ConJose.

 

 

Our travel schedule forced us to leave the convention early, but here are some more photos we took while we were there…

 

 

Con Review: Dragon*Con 2002

DragonConby Rob Balder & Karen Edelstein

 

Dragon*Con 2002
August 30 – Sept. 2, 2002
Atlanta, Georgia

Let me say this, to sum up our overall experience at Dragon*Con: THAT MANY interesting people having THAT MUCH FUN in one place shouldn’t be possible under the Law of “Whatever the Fundamentalists Don’t Ruin, the Lawyers Do.” And yet, there it was. What an incredible event!

So what did we see? We saw three concerts out of more than a dozen that were held. We met artists of jaw-dropping talent, absolute “A List” pros like JP Targete and Artist GOH Alex Grey, and were overwhelmed with how friendly and engaging they were. We partied way too hard with Pete Abrams, Joe Sunday, and Trillian from Sluggy Freelance. We saw a seven-foot Vader, two guys in fully mechanized battle armor suits, an enormous yeti, many mostly-naked chicks in itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny homemade-chainmail steel bikinis, a walking piece of modern sculpture, a stormtrooper from Germany (*shudder*), and one, yes only one, Borg. How ironic. “Yes! We are all individuals!” “I’m not.”

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Dragon*Con Artist GOH, Alex Grey, poses with Nth Degree’s Convention Liaison Karen Edelstein.

We saw so many cool things in the exhibitors’ hall and dealer’s room that we went into ferret-shock. We saw at least eight Spider-Men in one place, and we weren’t even looking on the ceiling. We saw a guy with a lighted tinfoil box on his head and a sign reading “Free Mammograms.” We saw the best-performed rendition of The Rocky Horror Picture Show we have ever seen, by Lips Down on Dixie. We saw a horde of goths fit for the sacking of Rome. We saw all this and hundreds of other remarkable things, some of which traveled in pairs.

And I would estimate that we missed more cool stuff than we saw.

What did we miss? Well, the celebrities, mostly. We missed the Trek stars leading the parade and judging the Klingon Beauty Pageant, etc. We missed the MST3000 guys emceeing battle bots. We missed the Babylon 5 reunion, and the Jefferson Starship concert, and Traci Lords, and Linda Blair, and I never even got to a single writing panel, not even John Ringo’s “101 Interesting Ways to Kill Off Characters.” However, we partied with John and half the staff of the upcoming StellarCon for two nights, talking Sluggy and singing filks on the Hyatt’s bar patio. Huge thanks to everyone who made it possible; you are an estimated 20,000 of our closest friends.

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Lighter Side of Sc-Fi creator Tye Bourdony taking a minute to chat with Nth Degree Submissions Editor, Rob Balder.

But most of all, we want to thank Star Roberts and the rest of the Dragon*Con staff. They REALLY came through for Nth Degree. Our Press badges allowed us access to any event, even when they were blocking people at the stairs. They had a press room, which amounted to a special-access con suite full of beverages and snacks and reading materials. They were as nice as could be, helped us find anything we asked about and answered all of our questions. There was absolutely no hassle, and the few rules we were given were completely common-sense and easy.

If you are breathing and have a pulse next Labor Day weekend, get to Dragon*Con. It’s like Woodstock for geeks, but with clean towels.

 

Con Review: Gamefest Richmond

GameFestby Michael D. Pederson

 

Gamefest Richmond
September 27-29, 2002
Richmond, Virginia

Gamefest runs a handful of gaming conventions every year. This year’s Richmond con brought about five hundred gamers out on a beautiful fall weekend. Scheduling in the gaming room was thorough and efficient; games all seemed to start when and where they were scheduled. And there was definitely a heck of a lot on the schedule—over fifty tables with new games scheduled every four hours… Well, my math isn’t very good but that’s a lot of gaming. Gamefest’s next event is scheduled for August 2003 in Milwaukee. Their full schedule can be found at www.gamefestseries.com.

 

Con Review: ICON 27

by Jennifer Moody

 

ICON 27
October 18-20, 2002
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Iowa’s oldest SF/F convention once again raised the roof of the Cedar Rapids Clarion Hotel with a weekend full of events. Fantasy author Jennifer Roberson and SF/F artist John Garner were the Guests of Honor. Other noted guests included ICON “founding father” Joe Haldeman, Glen Cook, Denise Garner, Rusty Hevelin, Erin McKee, Ed Heil, and Mickey Zucker-Reichert. Highlights included performances by The Trans-Iowa Canal Company – Eastern Division and the Klingon Kultural Exchange; a premiere of the film The Gamers; Victorian Twilight: A Witch Hunt in London, an original LARP by Jeff Shirk; an artists’ work space; and a viewing of the ICON archives. Plans for ICON 28 are already in the works for October 10-12, 2003, again at the Cedar Rapids Clarion. Further details and on-line registration will be available at www.mindbridge.org/icon.

 

Con Review: Capclave 2002

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Capclave 2002
October 18-20, 2002
Silver Spring, Maryland

This was the second year for WSFA’s resurrected convention—if you haven’t heard the tragic tale of the late lamented Disclave just ask around; it’s repeated often, late at night around the convention campfires to scare misbehaving con-goers. Though still a fairly small convention, Capclave is doing an admirable job at putting together a solid block of programming. This year’s guests were Stanley Schmidt and Alexis Gilliland. Among the other heavyweights on the program were Catherine Asaro, Jack Chalker, Scott Edelman, Darrel Schweitzer, and Michael Swanwick. Unfortunately the convention was scheduled at the height of the DC sniper scare and at times it felt like guests and staff outnumbered the attendees but the con still went off smoothly. Stan Schmidt’s signings and readings were easily the high point of the convention, drawing respectable crowds. Next year’s Capclave is scheduled for September 19-21, 2003.

 

Con Review: MACE

MACEby Michael D. Pederson

 

MACE
November 15-17, 2002
High Point, North Carolina

With the attendance of around four hundred gamers, MACE easily ranks as one of the best organized gaming conventions on the circuit. Upon registration, con attendees were provided with the most legible gaming schedule that I’ve ever seen. No more having to carry around a magnifying glass to see what time that Axis and Allies game is starting. MACE also rates high for corporate sponsorship; in addition to a freebie table chock-full of sample games, there were donations from all of the major gaming companies for the charity auction (which raised $1,500 for the Reading Connection). All this plus a raffle for best player/gamemaster and special kid’s programming made for a solid weekend of gaming.

 

DotCom

by Erik Cotton

 

A few years ago, the domain name www.business.com was purchased for millions of dollars. Suddenly everybody was jumping on the bandwagon and gobbling up domain names left and right. Yahoo.com, taken. Excite.com, taken. Be.com, taken. NthDegree.com, taken (grrrrr). Space.com, also taken. In fact, at the height of the dot.com gold rush virtually every webname was taken and put into use.

But all of that is ancient history now. After the dot.gone implosion of the last couple of years, a myriad of websites went up in venture capital smoke. But the names remain reserved, just in case they find a suck… errr… buyer with more cash than common sense.

When done right, having a website can be a useful and enjoyable experience. Just ask the guys who created such jewels as Slashdot.org or Arstechnica.com. They started off small and have evolved into a huge presence on the web.

Where does that leave you, the average reader? All the good names are gone, so you’ll just have to be inventive. Fear not Intrepid Reader, yours truly has gone to great lengths to track down unique domain names that are still available, waiting only for the right moment to flourish. So without further ado, I present to you, in no certain order, the world’s greatest list of available webnames.

How about PocketSquid.com? Everybody needs a pocket squid! For all of you budding marine biologists out there, this would be the perfect site. Except that it’s already taken. Not much there, just a small sign saying “Coming Soon!” Sure, like we’ve never heard that before.

However, all of you bovine fans are in luck: 14cows.com is available. Just the avenue you need to espouse to the world your love of Bessie. I’m almost positive, however, that in certain parts of the world loving a herd of cows is illegal. So perhaps the website 2cows.com would be safer. Unfortunately, it’s also taken.

Speaking of cows, most of us are well aware of the ecologic damage done by great wild herds of cows stampeding across America. Much like a plague of locusts, which, co-incidentally, is available. PlagueOfLocusts.com is just the site to warn the public about any impending plagues, either insectile or bovine.

Perhaps you’re not into animals, either for their scientific value or otherwise. Well then, how about a nice medical-related site? Something to help spread your medical knowledge to the world and ease the suffering of millions of victims of horrible diseases. Like, for example, Twitchy Nose Syndrome. TwitchyNoseSyndrome.com is available for the taking, ripe for posting detailed information that twitchy people all over the globe are desperately looking for.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re not quite—how shall we say—normal? Then perhaps ImDeranged.com is the site for you. Something that will allow you a harmless outlet for all of your fears, anger, and thoughts. That’d be great, except… it’s taken. By a clothing shop no less. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to wear clothing that says I’m deranged, it’s easy enough to spot.

Well, maybe I’m just giving bad examples. After all, most of the webnames I thought up have already been used by people even stranger than I. Indeed, MrBadExample.com, is in use, not by Warren Zevon fans, but by that ever-present site that we’ve all come to know and loathe: the Generic Search Engine Site. Yessir, you can find anything with these sites, mainly because they are all just links to Google.com with some extra spyware thrown in.

Speaking of search engines, perhaps you’re the type who wants to share your arcane knowledge of all things with others. Surely what you need is your own search engine page. Something like SearchThis.com. That would be a handy site, but it’s used by… get this… the Northeast Arkansas newspaper (The Jonesboro Sun) and even better, the site brings up a ton of MySQL errors. You’ve just gotta love those professional web designers.

Not to be deterred, perhaps WhatchaLookingFor.com is what you need. Nope, sorry, it’s “Under Construction.” Sure it is…

Right, so you can’t have your own search engine. Maybe you’ll settle for your own news site. You could design a website with news about everybody’s favorite tinseltown, Hollyweird. Obviously Hollywood.com is taken, but what about HollyWeird.com? Yup, not only is it taken, but it re-directs you to, drum roll please… Hollywood.com! Apparently those lunatics have a sense of humor after all.

Okay, many news sites are now catering to the on-the-move professional who hasn’t got the time to read a newspaper or surf a multi-page website. These hurried commuters read the news off of their PDAs on the morning bus. Now here’s your chance to grab a unique niche. Create a site for all the news about America’s favorite actor: Arnold “The Terminator” Schwartzenegger. PocketArnold.com would be perfect! But guess what… taken, and by a Generic Search Engine Site no less. Is there no pride left in this country?

After all of this frustration, perhaps you’ve retreated into your Cold War era nuclear bomb shelter. I for one wouldn’t blame you, I’m in the market for one myself. In fact… news for the Cold War relics would be just the thing right now wouldn’t it? Kind of topical. BunkerDailyNews.com is, in fact, available! Good for all of those Hitler fans as well. Both of them.

Okay, all of this searching, typing, and frustration has done me in. Perhaps the web isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Perhaps you feel that I’ve wasted fifteen minutes of your time. SoSueMe.com! (Taken, but feel free to e-mail them an offer.)