Dear Cthulhu: Issue #17



Dear Cthulhu,

I love cats. I think they are simply delicious and because of that I put up with them as pets. Having them around to barbecue whenever the mood strikes is worth putting up with the furballs, shedding, and changing the litter box. And I never have to worry about getting more. I don’t spay or neuter mine, so they make more. Plus, somebody’s cat is always having kittens and they are so grateful to me for taking them, nobody ever questions how many cats I have. That is until I met Kitty.

She bought the house I rent the first floor of. Turns out she loves cats and started paying attention to mine. I had to start making up names for them, but she caught me when I couldn’t remember the right names. I didn’t want to have trouble with either my landlord or the ASPCA, so I did the first thing I could think of to distract her—I slept with her.

She was very appreciative. Kitty is a tad overweight, if a tad equals about a hundred and fifty pounds. Now every time she asks questions about the cats, I sex her up. Truth be told, she’s damn good in bed. Plus, she took a hundred bucks off my rent and cooks for me, which is good and bad. The woman can cook but I can’t exactly hand her a kitty carcass to cook up. There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but the meat left behind still looks like a furless cat.

Last week I cooked up my last two kittens marsala style and they were scrumptious. Problem is Kitty noticed they were gone and wanted to start posting missing signs all over the neighborhood. I had to pop a Viagra and a cappuccino so I could keep going until she passed out from exhaustion. When she woke up I made up a story about a couple of nuns who were going door to door collecting kittens for the poor. She asked me what the name of the order was and I said they were the Sisters of Perpetual Petting and she gave me a look. She even looked them up on the internet. She obviously didn’t find anything. She wanted me to call the cops and report them as nun impersonators. It took me two hours and some creative uses for my kitchen mixer to distract her that time.

I’m having cravings and want to cook up some kitty, the cat not the girlfriend, but I’m not sure how to explain another disappearance. Should I try to catch one of the neighbor’s cats instead? Although I make sure mine get only the best food and I even milk feed them. Makes the meat much more tender. There might be an inferior taste and maybe even some disease in an outside cat. I’ve thought about moving, but I can’t get an apartment this size for this money anywhere near here and I kind of like Kitty and the things she does for and to me.

Any advice?

–Kitty Eater In Kansas


Dear Kansas,

Cthulhu shares your culinary tastes. In fact, consider picking up my new cookbook, 101 Ways To Skin and Prepare Felines. I admire you raising your own stock; I prefer free-range myself, both in humans and cats. Telling Kitty is obviously not an option if you want to keep your residence and procreation partner. Explain to her that you need some time to yourself. She will of course assume you are trying to dump her. You will assure her with much energetic intercourse that she is mistaken and that you simply need about two hours at 350 degrees, twice a week. Also tell her that you have not adopted the cats, that you are a foster owner taking care of them until good homes can be found so they do not have to stay in kill shelters. When a cat disappears, tell her it was adopted by a caring family. And use an extra-strength room deodorizer as the smell of cooked “care” is very distinctive. Wrap the bones and any leftovers in other garbage and take them to the dump yourself. You do not want her to be throwing something out and see a kitten skull staring back at her, although strung together they make a striking necklace.



Dear Cthulhu,

My wife told me recently she is pregnant with twins. It took her an hour to calm me down because I wanted to know who the father of the other kid was. She claims that I’m the father of both but that doesn’t make sense to me. Is she yanking my chain? I saw her talking to the mailman once and he shows up at the house almost every day, even when I’m at my construction job. I always thought it was suspicious, but my wife claims he goes to every house in the neighborhood. I tried to get the other husbands together to keep him off the block, but they all laughed at me. That happens a lot since I was hit in the head by that wrecking ball a few years back. Since I got out of that coma, people laugh at me a lot which is why I’m writing you. I figure you won’t be able to laugh at me in your column and you’ll level with me.

Did my wife cheat on me with some other guy? And do you think it was the mailman? And if she did, how do I tell which kid is mine cause I sure as hell ain’t gonna pay to raise some other guy’s brat.

–Hit In The Head In Hackensack


Dear Hit,

Cthulhu is very sad to inform you that you are right and your wife is wrong. Multiple births always involve more than one father. Don’t feel bad. It is something that the so-called experts conspire to keep secret from the masses. At least it is only twins. Imagine the night the women who have eight or nine offspring must have had. Without knowing your wife, Cthulhu would only be speculating on the identity of her other lover. You seem to be a very astute gentleman, so I think you should follow your gut feelings on the matter.

Have A Dark Day.


Dear Cthulhu welcomes letters and questions at All letters become the property of Dear Cthulhu and may be used in future columns. Dear Cthulhu is a work of fiction and satire and is © and ™ Patrick Thomas. All rights reserved. Anyone foolish enough to follow the advice does so at their own peril.


The Editor’s Rant: Issue #16

by Michael D. Pederson


I’ve gotta admit, I’m excited to be working on a new issue of Nth Zine. I’m sure (at least, I hope) that there are a few people that have been wondering where Nth Degree and Nth Zine have been for the last few years. Let me fill you in…

The biggest occupier of my time since the last issue of Nth Degree has been another pet project of mine, RavenCon. Through my travels with Nth Degree I met writers Tee Morris and Tony Ruggiero. The three of us pooled our resources (great connections in fandom, good organizational skills, and first-hand knowledge of what does and doesn’t work at a con) and started RavenCon in April 2006. It’s been an unqualified success. Our Guests of Honor have included Terry Brooks, Tom Kidd, Robert Sawyer, Steve Stiles, C.S. Friedman, Steve Hickman, Jack McDevitt, and Alan Beck. I could not be happier with the guests we’ve had, the public’s reaction, and the wonderful group of friends that have joined me to help put it together. Now that we’re in our fifth year I feel that things are running well enough that I can set aside a little time to work on the project that made RavenCon possible, Nth Degree.

In today’s economy, it’s simply too difficult to produce a glossy print zine like I used to. Luckily, I already have Nth Zine, the e-zine version of Nth Degree, waiting in the wings to be restarted. For now, the plan is to publish Nth Zine bimonthly. An online version will be published at There will also be print copies available at conventions and to subscribers. And, hopefully, if things go well, I will be able to put out an annual print version of Nth Degree. Cross your fingers and hope for the best!

For this, my first issue in too many years, I turned to several of my regular contributors from past issues and was overwhelmed by the response. I easily have enough material for the first three issues already. So, sit back, enjoy and, please, write to us and let us know what you think of the new Nth Zine.

(The contents of this Rant may seem confusing now that I’ve done away with Nth Zine and converted all the old issues back to the Nth Degree format. My apologies. MDP, Sept. 2014.)


Dear Cthulhu: Issue #16



Dear Cthulhu,

I am a 54-year-old divorced man with no kids and I’m obsessed with the Jabaguy card game. It’s based on the Japanese anime cartoon where kids train creatures to fight each other. I’m in a deadend job, but I’m too old to start over. I haven’t had a date in years. My only pleasure in life is playing Jabaguy. Sadly, I just can’t seem to get anyone my own age interested in playing, and it just can’t be done with any sort of satisfaction over the internet, so I have to go to local comic and game stores for tournaments where the only other players are eleven-year-olds.

Apparently the parents think it’s creepy and seem to suspect I’m some sort of sicko. Nothing could be further from the truth. One store just asked me not to come back because the parents were complaining. It doesn’t help that I’m so good at it that I almost always win which just make me look like a bully. That and I can afford to buy the rare and powerful cards that the kids can’t.

I’ve tried video games, casinos, even poker but nothing fills up the holes in my soul like this game.

What can I do to put the parents at ease?

–Shunned Old Jabaguy In Jamaica


Dear Shunned,

The simple truth of the matter is that what humans believe to be true is more important than what actually is. Just look at what the governments of the world have gotten you to believe over the years—wrestling is real, your water is safe to drink, they are not experimenting on you, and your vote counts, just to name a few.

You need a spin doctor, a professional PR person to help you convince these parents what you want them to believe. Unfortunately, it sounds like this is out of your price range and you do not appear bright enough to do it on your own.

Your best bet is to give yourself a reason to be there besides the actual playing of the game. Talk to the owners of these stores and see if they will hire you part time to run these tournaments. Offer to teach classes in game strategy at the store and you can play as part of your classes. And stop entering and winning the tournaments. Take a dive and throw a game once in a while because beating an eleven-year-old at a kids’ game comes off as mean and immature and the parents on some level probably feel protective and angry that you have taken a victory away from their offspring. Otherwise you have no chance of winning them over.

And as an added bonus you may qualify for employee discounts on your Jabaguy purchases.



Dear Cthulhu,

The bugs are out to get me. I hear their buzzing in my ears constantly and I can feel the vibrations from the worms as they dig through the dirt under my house. The bees make their honey with the sole purpose of drowning me in its sticky gooeyness while I sleep. They all want to lay their eggs in my flesh so they can thrive from my injury. No matter where I go they follow me, ready to crawl on my skin or bite my flesh. I think the cockroaches stole my shoes and there is a butterfly in China whose entire existence is to try and direct a hurricane at my house. It’s getting hard to sleep because I have four bug zappers in my bedroom and the eerie purple white light keeps me awake nights. They wait until I finally doze off before sending a kamikaze at a zapper to wake me up. Each day it is getting harder to think. I refuse to go outside where they can get me. I got fired from my job for not showing up and I fear the grocery store will stop delivering once my credit cards cut me off.

Is there some place in this world where the bugs can’t find me?

–Infected By Insects in Indianapolis


Dear Infected,

Grow some backbone. You are bigger than the insects. You should not fear them, they should fear you.

Cthulhu suggests you confront and work through your fears. Enroll in a course in order to become an exterminator. Many extermination companies offer this as part of their training. This way you regain employment, learn how to kill insects, and stop being a victim.
And get a girlfriend so that when the bees do bury you in honey, you can at least enjoy yourself.

Although it is sad that, ultimately, the bugs will get you. After you die and are buried, the maggots will gnaw on your skin and the worms will crawl through your flesh. Even if you are cremated, there are bugs who will actually digest your ashes. I hope that thought doesn’t keep you up any more at night, because if you do not get a job it is not the grocery store you should be most worried about, it is your power company. They will cut off your electricity and your bug zappers won’t be any more than four big paperweights. And the cockroaches will be coming for more than your shoes.

Have A Dark Day.


Dear Cthulhu welcomes letters and questions at All letters become the property of Dear Cthulhu and may be used in future columns. Dear Cthulhu is a work of fiction and satire and is © and ™ Patrick Thomas. All rights reserved. Anyone foolish enough to follow the advice does so at their own peril. 


The Editor’s Rant: Issue #15

by Michael D. Pederson


Well, here we are again with another Issue #1. It’s actually kinda exciting. When I launched Nth Degree (way back in 2002) I didn’t have a space for the Rant so I wasn’t able to bubble and gush all warm and fuzzy about starting a new magazine. I wasn’t able to tell everyone that we were creating a magazine that was specifically for the talented writers and artists that were struggling to launch their careers.

Most people figured that out pretty quickly though. Now, fourteen issues later, we’re starting a new monthly e-zine. This isn’t intended to replace Nth Degree and you can easily read one without the other. Our goal is for Nth Zine to complement the print zine.

Nth Zine will probably never look quite as nice as Nth Degree, there simply won’t be as much artwork. The monthly schedule makes it too difficult to maintain the more intensive design that goes into Nth Degree, so I’ve streamlined the design. Now, text can be easily dropped in place and each issue can then be either viewed directly on your computer or printed up and read on bits of dead trees.

As for content, the new monthly format will allow us to run reviews that we simply can’t use for the quarterly print zine. When the summer issue of Nth Degree comes out at the end of May, it stays in circulation until the end of August. The content ends up being mostly written in April and, face it, a movie review written in April won’t make much difference in the heat of August.

I’m hoping to be able to use this new more-timely format to be able to put together special issues as well. I really want to do a Halloween issue but I suspect that will have to wait until next year.

Finally, I debated with myself for quite a while on whether or not to include ads. As you can see, I decided in favor of keeping them. These guys paid good money to be in the print zine and I want to give them the most bang for their buck. I hope you like it!

(The contents of this Rant may seem confusing now that I’ve done away with Nth Zine and converted all the old issues to the Nth Degree format. My apologies. MDP, Sept. 2014.)


Pro Files: James Doohan

JamesDoohan2001by Jack Jeffers


A Tribute to James Montgomery Doohan

I had the privilege of interviewing James Doohan at Dragon*Con in Atlanta in 2001; I found him to be a polite, humorous, intelligent and very well-read man. James was born March 3, 1920 in Vancouver, British Columbia and grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. He served in Europe during WWII as a Royal Canadian Armed Forces Captain. He landed at Normandy on D-Day, as a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery. While he was still on the beach, a German machine gun stitched eight bullets across his chest. The only thing that saved his life was a metal cigarette case in his inner jacket pocket that deflected a round that would have penetrated his heart. He told me, “Don’t let everyone tell you that smoking will be the cause of your death, every time!” He also lost the middle finger of his right hand. He was one of the first British officers on the beach that day.

I asked him what was the most harrowing experience that he had during his military service? He answered, “It was seventeen miles we had to go in our little rowboat to be number one off on my beach. I was in charge of ‘D’ Company of the Winnipeg Rifles and their fifth LCA (Landing Craft Assault). We were just about a mile away from shore and were supposed to land at seven a.m., when a British motor torpedo boat came slashing across in front of us (the water was rough). They announced, ‘H-hour postponed 30… H-hour postponed 30.’ We found out later it was postponed to give the bombers a chance, let the clouds rise up and let the bombers bomb the beach before we landed. This is the worst part; we had to delay thirty minutes. We had to cut across the waves, with the waves. We did that three or four times, and I swear to you, that’s where I did some engineering without thinking of it as engineering. I told my troops, all strangers to me, all experts; beach commandos, beach signals, beach engineers. I told them all to put the weight close to the center, heavy persons to the center, and to move the heavy equipment to the center with the rifles. We had to overcome the waves some way. The Regina Rifles lost three LCAs because they did not do these proper things. You could see the motor torpedo boats disappear behind the waves. That will tell you how thick it was. All of the troops with me had a job to do when they landed. There was one fellow who had an unbelievable number of stripes on his arm. I guess he was second in command to me. He was from Singapore and was Japanese. Can you imagine? He had escaped from Singapore, and here he was to land on Normandy.”

James recovered in a veterans hospital in Canada and was released from service. His brother, six years older than he, was a Brigadier General in the Royal Canadian Army; following the war he was in charge of the Veteran’s Administration in London, Ontario, Military District 1, Canada. He advised Jim to go back to college, under the Canadian Bill of Rights, as he was entitled to twice the length of his overseas military service which was 5 1⁄2 years. They owed him nine years of university training with a living allowance. He moved to London, Ontario to go to school.

He listened to a local radio station between Christmas and New Years 1945 while he was studying. He said that “I put down my books at 8:00 p.m. to listen to a radio drama, and it was the worst I ever heard. I got my Irish and Scottish up and I got some stuff to read and went down to CMPL, the only radio station in London, Ontario. I went to one of the operators there and told him I wanted to make a recording. He said, you mean a transcription. I did it, and horrors of horrors, I heard my own voice for the first time. I told the operator that I didn’t like it. He said, ‘What are you talking about? You’re good!’ I was stumped for a second, and then I asked him where you go to learn. He said, ‘I have a brochure for a drama school that teaches radio [to] veterans.’ I sent them a telegram and I got an answer back. I went to the school in Toronto the next Friday. I made my first professional appearance with a CBC radio show on January 12, 1946. At the end of June, I graduated with top honors and won a scholarship for two years free tuition at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. I went there and was amazed at how brilliant the teacher, Sanford Meisner, was. I was a student there for two years, then he asked me to stay on and teach because Jo VanFleet, his assistant was leaving. I taught for three years.”

He began to work in radio in New York, and was in much demand, as he now could do sixteen different dialects, and coached Broadway actors in speech and dialect. He graduated to television, guest-appearing in such major shows as Tales of Tomorrow in 1952; Bonanza, Gunsmoke and The New Breed in 1962; Hazel, The Virginian and The Twilight Zone in 1963; The Outer Limits, Ben Casey, The Man from UNCLE, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and The Rogues in 1964; and The Fugitive, Laredo, Convoy, and Bewitched in 1965. He continued making guest appearances in many of these series, while also appearing in several movies made for TV during that time.

In 1966 he was asked to audition for Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry. He auditioned for the part of the ship’s engineer using eight different accents. Roddenberry asked him which accent he liked? James answered at once, “If you want a chief engineer, he had better be a Scotsman, because Scotsmen, which includes my grandfather, made the British Empire.” Of course, James’ Scottish heritage had something to do with his decision. And so… “Lt. Commander Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott” was born (the “Montgomery” was from his own middle name!) and he appeared in the pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. And so it began. He was one of the best-liked characters in the TV series and in all of the movies. A little-known fact is that he was also a linguist, and devised the Vulcan and Klingon language dialogue heard in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Over the next twenty years, other linguists expanded Klingon into a full language of its own.

I asked James which episode of Star Trek was the one he liked the best, he answered, “It was ‘The Doomsday Machine’ because of it’s suspenseful mood and because it had a great actor, William Windom, in the lead. The one that was the greatest fun, was ‘The Trouble With Tribbles’ where I got to do about 95% of my own stunts. The best film, I think, was number six, The Undiscovered Country, because it was beautifully written and directed. The greatest line [from any of the movies] was when we landed in San Francisco, and William Shatner, as Captain Kirk, said ‘Everybody remember where we parked.’”

In 1966, James was granted an honorary Degree in Engineering by the Milwaukee School of Engineering, as they said over fifty percent of their students majoring in engineering, said that they were inspired to study engineering, by James’ character “Scotty” on Star Trek.

A fine man, a gentleman, and a true hero before he ever stepped into radio, television, and the movies.

Somewhere a voice said, “Beam him up! We have need of him here!” and he went.

But he will be missed.


Dear Cthulhu: Issue #15



Dear Cthulhu,

My partner and I recently went pro at women’s beach volley ball. We made it to the finals, but the competition was fierce. I was worried they’d beat us. I knew whoever won that tournament would also get a bikini endorsement and I wanted that money, so when the opportunity came to drug our opponents drinks right before the match, I took it.

We won, two games to one.

The only problem is, now I feel guilty. Suggestions?

–Setter in Seattle


Dear Setter,

I can understand why you would feel guilty. The other team was drugged and it still took you three games to beat them. Not only should you feel guilty, you should be ashamed.

I suggest that next time you consider using stronger drugs or train harder. Probably both.



Dear Cthulhu,

I’m normally a very quiet guy. I don’t go out much and my dating history with women was bleak, unless you count when I went to my senior prom with my twelve-year-old cousin. Of course, after less than an hour she left me for one of the guys in the band.

That all changed a week ago when I met “Jane.” She was a freshman at the local college. She was blond and built like a centerfold. Jane was even a cheerleader in high school.

I was out in a local bar and when she picked me up, I could barely believe it. I was in heaven. A gorgeous girl was interested in me. We had a whirlwind romance. I took her out to all the best fast food restaurants, sent her a dozen carnations every day—you know swept her off her feet.

Then at the end of the week it happened—we did the deed. I rocked her world for a good four minutes! I know, because every minute I stopped to look at the clock. I’ve got to tell you, I finally felt like a man, which at 44 was probably long overdue.

The next day is when the problems started. I called her at least twenty times that morning and another thirty that afternoon and she didn’t return a single one. Things went on like that for another three days until she showed up at my apartment, a scarf wrapped around her head and sunglasses on.

She wanted to talk to me. Jane was pledging a sorority and her hazing included having to sleep with me. She said that everything that happened meant nothing. In fact, she was embarrassed about what happened and she never wanted to be seen with me again. I didn’t even rate the “let’s be friends” speech. No, she told me I was creeping her out and to stop calling or she’d call the cops.

Looking back, I should have insulted her or spit in her face, then yelled at her to get out. Maybe tell her how much money I was going to make selling the video of her naked on the internet. (She hadn’t noticed the camera.) But I tend to follow my emotions first and my head second, so I kind of ended up strangling her.

My emotions still running the show, I decided the best way to get rid of the body was to cut her up into little pieces and flush them down the toilet. I tried my gonzo knives. They may cut through a tin can, but human bones are another thing. I ended up buying a hacksaw and an industrial size food processor.

The disposal worked pretty good, up until the end. I admit I got lazy and started putting larger pieces down the crapper than I should have, but I had been slicing and flushing for fourteen hours straight and I was tired.

I ended up plugging the toilet. I tried plunging, even poured a gallon of Liquid Plunger down, but nothing happened. I’m worried that if I call a plumber, he’ll figure out what happened. At the very least he’ll ask why the water in the bowl is purple. (Its normal blue mixed with all the blood and it turned that color.)

What can I do to clean out my pipes?

–Backed Up In Baltimore


Dear Backed Up,

Cthulhu would again like to state his policy that humans should not kill people, Cthulhu should. But as it is too late in this case, I order you to never do it again and I will overlook it this once.

I suggest going to your local hardware store and purchasing a tool called a snake. You will be able to work it through the pipe and it should clear the blockage.

I also suggest canceling your plans to sell the video on the web. It would eventually lead law enforcement to your door asking questions you would not want to answer.



Dear Cthulhu,

I am eight years old and have lost my best friend Wags. We’ve looked everywhere, but haven’t been able to find him.

Mr. Cthulhu, I’m desperate. Do you know where my dog is?

–Lonely in LA


Dear Lonely,

As a matter of fact, I do. A pity you did not actually ask me to tell you where your dog was. Write in again if you really want to know, but I recommend you hurry. Poor Wags does not have much time left.

Have a Dark Day.


Dear Cthulhu welcomes letters and questions at All letters become the property of Dear Cthulhu and may be used in future columns. Dear Cthulhu is a work of fiction and satire and is © and ™ Patrick Thomas. All rights reserved. Anyone foolish enough to follow the advice does so at their own peril.


The Editor’s Rant: Issue #14

by Michael D. Pederson


Time for another update on how things are going here at the bustling offices of Nth Degree. For starters, we have more projects going on than ever before. And by we, I mostly mean me. Sigh.

The biggest news involves the website. After letting it slide for way too long, I’ve finally gotten the entire site up-to-date. All of the fiction, poetry, filks, comics and con reviews that have appeared in the magazine have finally been loaded onto the website. I’ll keep this current from here on out if it kills me.

Brandon has added a neat new section to the website for us to start uploading exclusive new “web only” content. This is going to be for fiction that I enjoyed but didn’t think was quite right for the magazine. I frequently receive good stories that are too long or are too similar to something I’ve just published, now I’ll have a place to put them. And I have enough material that I’ll be able to post new stories on a daily basis.

I’ve also got several stories that I wanted to run in the zine but simply didn’t have room for. That’s one of the downsides to being quarterly. My output just can’t keep up with the volume of submissions I receive. One of these days we’ll be able to go bi-monthly but until then I’ll be putting out a monthly e-zine to go with the print magazine. NthZine will feature the fiction that couldn’t fit into the print zine. Also, being monthly, we’ll be able to run more timely reviews for things like television, movies, CDs and comics. The e-zine will be available as a PDF download. In theory it will be very similar to Nth Degree, only distributed in an electronic format.

Nth Degree has also taken on the task of hosting a science fiction literary convention in Richmond, Virginia. RavenCon is my own little brainchild but I’m being ably assisted by authors Tee Morris and Tony Ruggiero. Tee, Tony and myself attend quite a few conventions and decided that our insider’s perspective would help us in organizing Richmond’s first SF con in over twenty years. We’ve seen quite a bit of what works and what doesn’t work and are not ashamed to liberally borrow ideas from other cons. We’ve already got a crack staff of volunteers. If the amount of fun we have at our meetings is any indication then RavenCon will surely be a success.

Creatively, I’m having a banner year. Unfortunately, quantum instabilities in my personal life are still an issue. The big move last January threw my print schedule off a bit. Now I find myself forced to move again in September. And again in October. Then I’ll stay put for a while. I promise. The downside is that I’ll probably only get three issues out this year. This won’t affect subscriptions any since I’ve always measured subscriptions by number of issues rather than by the calendar. And conventions won’t suffer since I’m increasing my print runs to accommodate longer distribution periods.

By the time you read this, the monthly e-zine (NthZine) and daily web updates should be going strong though. In the meantime, I suggest that everyone buy lots and lots of back issues. The money’s always nice to have and less stuff to move is less stuff to move.


Faces of Fandom: Christopher J. Garcia

Chris Garcia

Illustration by Michael D. Pederson

by Chris Garcia


Over the past few years, Chris Garcia has been a frequent contributor to Nth Degree. He’s written short stories (as Johnny Eponymous), con reviews, and gaming reviews for us but now we’re letting him turn the white hot spotlight of public scrutiny on himself…

How To Be A Toastmaster:
My BayCon 2005 Experience

BayCon is the Bay Area’s largest, oldest, and most established SF Convention. Having attended the first one, and many off and on over the last 22 years, it’s my home convention and the event that really brought me fully into fandom after a lay-off of several years. For some reason, they chose me to act as their Toastmaster, running the “Meet the Guests” event and the Masquerade. If you’ve ever been to a large convention, you know that these events can be huge and facing the task of leading them is daunting. I got a chance to chat with last year’s Toastmistress, Esther Friesner, and 1999 and 2000 Toastmaster Kent Brewster, who both gave me great pointers. As a public service, I created a set of rules that anyone who is asked to be a Toastmaster should follow.

Be memorable and make sure folks can find you among the crowd.

Friday, noon. I’d arrived nice and early, ready to get down to the fun of the con. There was already a maddening crowd. A great many folks were milling around, and for some reason, there were far more young folks than usual. In the 1980s, BayCon was the home to a large crowd of young fans who would go on to become important to fandom over-all and this was like being back in those days. By the end of the con, there were more attendees than any BayCon I’d ever been to and one of the largest BayCons ever.

As I walked through the halls, I ran into Jay Lake (Writer Guest of Honor, 2004 Campbell Award Winner and respected anthology editor), Frank Wu (Artist Guest of Honor and 2004 Hugo winner), Andy Trembley and Kevin Roche (Fan Guests of Honor and well-known party hosts) and a number of other folks, all wearing fezzes made of purple. They had one for me. The rest of the convention, I walked around with my purple fez worn proudly.

Be funny, but not offensive or out of control.

As the day went on, we were introduced to a small crowd at the Opening Ceremonies. This was simple and small and no one had anything to say, though I did manage to do a spit-take for the delight of some (OK, mostly myself). After the Opening Ceremony, I had to prepare for the Meet the Guests.

If you’ve only been to the Meet the Pros events on the East Coast you probably have no idea why I was freaking out. Meet the Guests is an event where all the guests talk for a minute or two and the Toastmaster runs the show in front of 500 or so attendees. This year, the number was likely a bit larger, as there were no free tables and little standing room left. As I had to run the thing, I was panicking, though not nearly as badly as I should have been.

I walked up and introduced everyone, saying funny things that fit with the theme “BayCon: The Con You Can’t Refuse” (Sonny Corleone couldn’t make it tonight. There was some hold-up at a toll booth) and pointing out that Jay and I had once been confused for one another, which is easy to understand as we could both be described as Big Guys with beards and Hawaiian shirts. We worked the room and Chase Masterson of Deep Space Nine fame performed a few jazzy numbers as the place opened up for the Charity Casino. A late night playing blackjack and generally having a good time.

Always show up early and ready to perform.

With all the gambling we did, and a few late-night parties, I was dragging on the way to the early morning panels. BayCon’s best panel, “5 Dollars, a Time Machine and a Dead Fish,” was a morning panel and featured hilarious and brutal ideas of how to change history for the funnier using those three things. This was the first year I wasn’t on the panel, but the guys did a great job.

Sadly, I was nearly asleep the entire day. When I made it to the panel about MonkeyCon (the convention which is always held next year), I was tired, but we all managed to have a good panel. I even got to make Jay Lake sing for the entire audience. The other panels that were going on were really well-attended, with the young fans who had shown up all coming to more panels and getting more and more involved. They weren’t just there for the parties. The only downside was that all the Guests of Honor were scheduled against one another. That’s kinda tough, as we were all friends, so we would have liked to have attended each others panels.

Remember: The audience wants to like you!

The next thing I had to worry about was the Masquerade. As Toastmaster, I was given the option of MCing it, and for some fool reason, I said yes. We gathered beforehand with all the judges for dinner and I was seated next to a lovely young thing who was working as the runner for the judges. We chatted and ate and then I headed into the Green Room, where I got to see the costumes before anyone else.

And they were magnificent.

A brilliant British Admiral’s costume, an amazingly cute Ewok and mermaid, and the best was Jem & The Holograms along with Sinergy from the 1980’s cartoon. All of them were great. I went about making sure I had everything right so I wouldn’t look like an idiot when I was doing the announcing.

Make sure you dress for respect.

I wore my tux with a Hawaiian shirt underneath. When it came time to go out there, I introduced myself as Entrant #0: Christopher J. Garcia as Evening Wear Jay Lake. Jay, who was in the audience, said that I did a better than passable job.

Make sure you go over every name you’ll have to announce to avoid messing them up.

I managed to get every name correct. Even the weird Celtic ones. Heck, there was even a Jwlhyfer that I had to work out, and I managed it.

But I should have put more into learning the names of the entries. You see, there was a word on my sheet for announcing that read A-V-E. Well, it’s obvious to me that you would pronounce that word to rhyme with Knave. I announced it as such and then she came and started singing. Started singing Ave Maria. I then realized my mistake and nearly exploded. I was trying to fight down hysterical laughter at how moronic I had been. I then grabbed the mic after she was done and said “that was Number 7, Ave” rhyming with agave. I was saved and made it through the rest of the night without incident. The winner was an excellent kaiju entry with two monsters that ended up dancing to SpongeBob SquarePants.

The night ended early, I was in bed by midnight, and preparing for my heaviest day of programming.

Try to interact with as many attendees as possible.

On Sunday, the place was jumping. It seemed even more fans were arriving every minute. I went to my panels and found myself stopped every few minutes.

“What’s with the fez?” they’d ask.

“I’ll tell you later” I’d respond in my best reference to Buckaroo Bonzai.

The Sunday panels were very good, including a panel on “How to Be a Villain” which included my dear pal Neil Zawacki who wrote the book How to Be a Villain. This was a fun panel with lots of the audience coming through with great funny comments.

I had to take a nap and ended up watching an MST3K Fanfilm on the in-room BayCon TV Network. I realized that I had nothing to do for the next few hours, so I settled in. Gen, the darling girlfriend, and Evelyn, her precocious daughter, came over and we had room service and watched Shrek which they projected on the side of the hotel. It was nice, and once Evelyn got to sleep, I managed to finish reading the National Fantasy Fan Federation Handbook and a few fanzines that managed to make their way into my hands.

Monday was a few panels, a few lunches, a nice chat with Frank and Jay, and that was that. This BayCon was younger, more vibrant, faster, harder-to-follow, bigger, louder, and more terrifying than any other I’ve been to. Having been Toastmaster, I’m ready to do it again, though maybe at a smaller con this time. The Guests of Honor for BayCon were the friendliest I’ve ever seen. I used to say that Steven Brust was #1 for inviting folks into his room for whiskey and singing at Conjecture, but watching Jay mingle and break it down on the dance floor, Frank talking to everyone, Kevin and Andy greeting everyone and making sure that folks were having a good time, these guys easily took the cake.

And I’m still recovering.

Above all, don’t swear into a live microphone.

And this is the only one of my rules I managed not to break at all.


The Editor’s Rant: Issue #13

by Michael D. Pederson


What does it mean to be a semiprozine? According to the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, a semiprozine must meet at least two of the following criteria: 1) have an average press run of at least one thousand copies per issue; 2) pay its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication; 3) provide at least half the income of any one person; 4) have at least fifteen percent of its total space occupied by advertising; 5) announce itself to be a semiprozine. Nth Degree meets criteria numbers 1, 4 and 5, so we are technically a semiprozine.

But what does that mean?

That’s a question that I frequently ask myself. Particularly in regards to how I handle my Rants. In a professional magazine, the editorial is a forum for the editor to pontificate on issues that are important to him/her and might spark reader interest. In a traditional fanzine, the editorial tends to be more of an open letter from the editor to his/her friends and readers, usually filling them in on what he/she has been up to lately. I generally try to take a middle ground—whimsical updates on how the zine is doing or mildly amusing opinions on things that I notice going on in fandom.

Like a professional publication, I have thousands of readers that I’ve never met and probably never will. Like a fan publication, I have hundreds of readers that I have met and partied with and gotten to know pretty well.

So, how to handle personal news? For those of you who consider this to be more of a professional publication, look away. For the rest of you, let me fill you in on what’s been going on in the Old Dominion for the last few months.

In November, Cate and I decided to separate and will be getting a divorce. It was a reasonably amicable breakup and she may still occasionally contribute to the zine. She probably won’t be attending any more conventions though.

In January, I moved back to Richmond. I lived here for sixteen years before moving in with Cate and I am very happy to be back. However, it is just a temporary move while I look for a job (anyone looking to hire a magazine editor?) and a new house. That means that there will be yet another move in my near future. You can check out my Rant way back in Issue #4 for my feelings on moving. I haven’t grown any fonder of it in the past two years.

In March, we sold the house in Stafford. I miss it already, although I couldn’t be happier about being out of Stafford. We were far too close to the traffic nightmares of Northern Virginia for my tastes. And there were no good Thai restaurants nearby.

Which brings me to the present. All of this personal business has made me adjust the schedule for the zine a bit. Normally we’d have an issue out in March, another out in May and then the next one in September. Instead, I’ll put one out in April and then adjust the rest of the year accordingly.

Thanks to everyone for their support and patience.


Pro Files: David Franklin

Bracaby Ron McClung


Nth Degree was recently given the privilege of interviewing actor David Franklin. We’re all big Farscape fans here…

ND: With Ben Browder and Claudia Black joining the cast of Stargate SG-1, are you likely to stay with science fiction as well or concentrate more on drama?

DF: As much as I enjoy doing sci-fi, I enjoy working in all sorts of dramatic forms. I’d love to do some more comedy.

ND: How did it feel getting back together with everyone for Peacekeeper Wars? Was there a “learning curve” in getting back with the characters, or was everyone ready to pick up where they left off?

DF: After working together previously for so long, it was just a matter of slipping on the costume, and then it was business as usual. Well, it was for me anyway. I was quite surprised how, after only a day on set, it was almost like there hadn’t been a break. There you go you taskmaster!

ND: How did it feel being less of a bootlicker and more of a hotshot commando in Peacekeeper Wars? Were you all having too much fun on the set?

DF: Braca used to be the guy you should never go on a mission with because he’d inevitably get his subordinates killed while doing nothing himself. It seems like Captain Braca has matured somewhat. Who knew?

Because the mini-series shoot was like a movie, there was more time spent sitting around waiting for special effects to set up shots. I was joking around with Raelee Hill one day—we were so bored—and we started shooting a joke—Captain Braca beefcake calendar—because of his newfound hotshot commando status. That kept us amused for a few days. The only trouble was that the rest of the crew wanted to get involved and we were meant to be shooting Farscape. The calendar was a great end-of-shoot present, and you can get copies online at

ND: What was a favorite episode for you? What episode makes you ask “What am I doing here?”

DF: I enjoyed the one where Braca was bewitched by Grayza’s aphrodisiac secretion. Poor Braca didn’t know if he’d been sexually molested or not.

I remember the episode also with Grayza where I had a Skreeth on my forehead, which telepathically transmitted another being into me, and Rebecca [Commandant Grayza] asked me how I was going to be possessed, and I replied I have no #$%#@%$ idea!

I think Braca’s favorite moment was when he had his boss Scorpius on a chain. It was a moment of complete wish-fulfillment for him.

ND: When you look back on Farscape what are your impressions? Was it “just another gig” or do you feel like you made an impact?

DF: I originally only came in for two episodes, but it ended up being for the whole run of the show. First and foremost, I was amazed with the extraordinary vision of Brian Henson. There had never been anything on TV before like it, and there will probably never be again. I was honored to be a part of that. Unlike most TV acting gigs, we were able to form an ensemble group of actors, which allowed me to expand my range and take risks as a performer.

ND: Compared to theatrical acting, do you find it difficult to perform opposite Muppets, green screens, and people yelling “Boom… Something just blew up to your left!”?

DF: Acting is always about imagination. And it’s especially good when the imagination is as fertile as the Farscape team.