Dear Cthulhu: Issue #13

DearCthulhuLogo

 

Dear Cthulhu,

I’m a HUGE fan with a very unusual problem. I’m a young male who knows I was born in the wrong body. Despite being a mortal male, I know I was meant to be an Ancient One and due to a cruel trick of fate I was instead born into a human body.

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life trying to set right this great wrong. I’ve tried to have plastic surgeons alter my appearance to what it should be, but none of them will touch me. It’s not fair. They’d give me boobs if I wanted, but when I ask for tentacles they have me committed. I was abused by my mother and sisters as a child and have several gender issues, so becoming a woman would be an even greater torture to endure than my current predicament.

I tried to do it myself. I attached bat wings to my back and sewed an octopus to my face. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach my shoulder blades with needle and thread, so I had to back up against a stapler.

In the end, it didn’t work. The staple wounds got infected, although I loved the green color they turned. Also, the octopus flesh rotted and I ended up passing out from the stench. EMTs brought me to the ER and the damned doctors removed my tentacles and wings. They even thought a psycho had done that to me. When I told them I had done it to myself, I was committed again. This place is nothing like Arkham and they won’t let me out.

I was hoping you would recognize the greatness of your kind within me and come to my aid. Perhaps you could raze this place to the ground killing all within, except me of course. Then you could help me realize my true potential by hastening my transformation. Failing that, perhaps you could write a letter of recommendation to the board here telling them that I’m not a danger to myself or humanity as a whole. (Wink, wink.)

Thanks.

–Your Brother in Chaos

 

Dear “Brother”,

Although your ambitions are laudable, they are also laughable. The idea that a lowly human could ascend to become an Ancient One is preposterous.

Your plight has however moved me to intervene on your behalf. I have contacted the facility that currently holds you and pulled a few strings, threatened to devour a few souls and they agreed to bypass normal procedures and medical ethics. You are scheduled with a plastic surgeon next week. Sadly, they lack the skill and techniques to successfully do what you want, so I instructed them to do something they were more adept at. You’ll be a D cup by Tuesday.

By your next letter, you’ll be able to sign as my Sister in Chaos.

Have a dark day.

 

Dear Cthulhu,

I recently found out I was adopted when my “mother” needed a kidney transplant. I volunteered to donate one of mine, but when the doctor did a test for compatibility, I flunked and she had to come clean and tell me the whole truth.

I’m devastated. It feels like my whole life is a lie. I want to find my real parents, to find out why they gave me up. Unfortunately, the adoption agency’s records are sealed and I don’t have enough money to hire a lawyer to get them opened.

Can you help me?

–Living a Lie in Lexington

 

Dear Lexington,

What a joy it is to hear from you after all these years. I’m happy to say that I can indeed help you by telling you who your father is—it is I, Cthulhu.

Let me confess the truth, you were conceived during a drunken weekend in Las Vegas. Not that I was drinking, you understand, but those Shriners I devoured were another story…

When you where born, you took after your showgirl mother and sadly looked nothing like me. Your mother was too career oriented to want to raise a child and in my circles your appearance would have been a liability, so we felt it was best to give you up for adoption and a chance at a better life. I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way I hoped.

Sadly, your mother is no longer with us. During another drunken Vegas weekend, I accidentally ate her. It was an honest mistake. She was working on her new act and those swinging tassels sure looked like a couple of Shriners, as least with my booze goggles on.
I would love to see you again, although I’m embarrassed to admit that, like your adopted mother, I too am in need of a kidney. And a liver, heart, and spleen. Also some cocktail sauce. I would be honored for you, my son, to be able to give them to me, your loving father.

You are welcome to come visit me and donate the organs in person. If this is inconvenient for you, I can send some of my followers by to pick them up.

Remember a father’s hunger—I mean love—knows no bounds.

 

Dear Cthulhu welcomes letters and questions at DearCthulhu@dearcthulhu.com. 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.

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #12

by Michael D. Pederson

 

I’ve received more comments on my last editorial than on any of the other editorials that I’ve written in the past three years. For those of you who missed it, I pointed out many of the similarities between my two favorite hobbies—poker and Fandom. Since I seem to have struck a chord with the fans, I’d like to pursue this a little further.

Fellow fan writer rich (yes, the lowercase is intentional) brown pointed out that the similarities probably extend to include zines as well. A quick search turned up a Canadian poker zine called Deal Five and several dozen e-zines that were all devoted to the game. No surprise there, the world of zinedom has grown to include every hobby imaginable. That’s something that Fandom can be truly proud of. Most of the comments that I received though were directed at my comments about the so-called Sci Fi Channel. The one thing that I heard most was a loud cheer of support for a show that I alluded to but didn’t actually mention—Sci-Fi Buzz. I was slightly surprised to discover that a long-dead news program could have such a strong fan following. But when I think back on the debut of the Sci Fi Channel (September 24, 1992), Sci-Fi Buzz is the one program that I most associate with the fledgling network. It was the show that stood out from the classic science fiction reruns to give Sci Fi its identity. When we the fans cry out for a return of science fiction to the Sci Fi Channel we’re all thinking about Sci-Fi Buzz.

Over the years (though not so many in recent years) the Sci Fi Channel has had a number of great original programs that could easily be brought back to help re-establish their science fiction identity: Sci-Fi Buzz, FTL NewsFeeds, Inside Space, SF Vortex, and The Anti-Gravity Room all had strong fan followings and would be welcomed back with open arms. Heck, I’d even settle for the well-meaning but poorly executed Sciography.

All of our complaining about the state of the Sci Fi Channel will likely fall on deaf ears though. With the unqualified success (both in ratings and awards) of Steven Spielberg’s typically saccharin Taken the station appears to be focusing on making itself the home for bad movies. Sure, they did a pretty good job on Dune but their plans for a two-part Amber mini-series fill me with nothing short of utter dread. Allowing time for commercials they’ll only be able to dedicate a half an hour to each book. Hmmm… Better make some cuts… How does Three Princes in Amber sound?

The biggest obstacle that we fans face in getting science fiction programming back on the Sci Fi Channel though is the tunnel vision of its president, Bonnie Hammer. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly she stated, “Sci Fi is the little engine that could. Every plateau we get to, someone says, ‘They’re doing great, but they ain’t gonna get any further.’ And every year, we prove everybody wrong.” And, sadly, she seems to be right. The channel is the eighth most viewed cable channel in the critical 18- to 49-year-old market. As long as this bastardized version of the Sci Fi Channel is doing well I’m afraid that our voice isn’t going to matter much. I hope that everyone enjoyed Python Versus Boa, we’ll probably have plenty of sequels to look forward to.

 

Pro Files: Bruce Campbell

by Josh Hudson

 

Nth Degree was recently given the privilege of interviewing actor Bruce Campbell via email. We were allowed ten questions with the proviso that the questions could not be answered by simply reading Bruce’s official website (http://www.bruce-campbell.com). After the entire staff brainstormed (we’re all big fans) we came up with the following ten…

ND: Your film career really got started in 1978. During the release of Within the Woods, Halloween came out (one of your choices for top ten horror movies)—what goes through a newly starting horror filmmaker’s mind going against such a classic?

BC: Uh, FYI, there was no release of Within the Woods—that was a Super-8 film used to raise money for Evil Dead. Better check your facts.

ND: You call yourself a “B” movie actor. The image invokes former presidents with monkeys and ensuing hi-jinx. Do you feel that you are really a “B” movie actor when that title should really go to people who are part of the “straight-to-video” actors?

BC: I use that term lovingly. “B” movies mean independent. They always try harder and have the capacity of being more interesting. “B” movies aren’t always bad, just like “A” movies aren’t always good.

ND: At what point in your career did you feel comfortable enough to consider yourself a success? And what do you feel are your most successful moments in your career? Is there a moment when you look at an audience with the statue and cry, “You love me. You really love me?”

BC: I don’t have any defining moment, but I consider it a success when you can do what you’d like and live where you want, and that’s exactly what I do.

ND: Do you seek out sci-fi/horror projects or, because of the Evil Dead series, is that mostly what has been offered to you? Are your interests in the sci-fi genre?

BC: Well, I just did another film for Disney (Sky High—that makes three for them). I’ve done a western series, a swashbuckling series, a superhero series, etc., so I don’t feel any stereotype. I do, however, have to make a living…

ND: Your best known characters are sarcastic, edgy, and reluctant heroes. Is that casting because it is organically you, or are they characters you wish to be more like?

BC: Both. There is always a little bit of the actor in any role, and there are certain roles I’m attracted to—anything but middle-of-the-road BS.

ND: When you are in a long running series like Xena, usually there is an actor or two who finds outrageous fortune and success. They go on and you never see them with their long-time workmates. However, you, Sam Rami, and Rob Tapert seem to do the opposite and keep gathering more people into your “posse.” Why is it that you find yourself working with the same close network of professionals while others seem to let their long time friends fall away?

BC: We enjoy working with each other, it’s easier, and we know what to expect. Not sure why other folks go separate ways, but we all like the fact that we’re from Michigan, and we all got into a very difficult industry.

ND: When you set out to make a film like Bubba Ho-Tep, which doesn’t make the big box office hoopla, how do you measure its success? And how hard is it to have such a non-traditional movie produced?

BC: It’s very hard. But lest we forget, based on the budget of Bubba, it made its money back just from the theatrical run, which you say wasn’t successful. How many big ass movies can say that? It’s all relative to budget. Bubba will be in profit from the first DVD sold.

ND: You had a short but memorable role in Escape From LA with Kurt Russell. It has been said that his injuries during the filming of Soldier made him lose interest in action films. Some of us agree that you would be a great replacement for a Snake Plissken style character to fill this void. Would you ever consider being an action hero?

BC: ZZZZZ. I prefer just being an actor. Everything else is baloney. And I just worked with Kurt again and he hasn’t lost interest in anything.

ND: Could you name three things in your career that you wish you could go back and change (e.g. a role you turned down, an actress you could have dated that turned out to be an uber famous femme fatale)?

BC: Nothing, nothing and nothing. I may work in the land of fantasy, but I live in reality.

ND: Finally, I had to choose between my question and one that I thought I should have asked about your upcoming movie Man with the Screaming Brain. You can send me anything you want about your movie and I will write endlessly about it, but I have to ask my last question—You have been childhood friends with Sam Rami?

BC: Sam is a good friend because we not only shared interests, but we both have a sense of humor about life and biz.

 

Letters of Comment: Issue #12

 

We look forward to receiving your letters at editor@nthzine.com.

 

Michael:

Thanks for the latest Nth Degree and congratulations on making it to issue 10.

Unfortunately there was little resonance with your convention reports and conventions I’ve been to or missed, although I suppose SheVaCon may be what RoVaCon turned into. Certainly the roots of the names look suspiciously similar.

As for the major fiction piece I can’t buy the premise. Aliens smart enough to travel to Earth via spaceship would (a) have spacesuits and (b) would know better than to land in a combat zone. Suspension of disbelief was too great to overcome.

Until next issue…

Henry L. Welch
Editor, The Knarley Knews
welch@msoe.edu
August 15, 2004

That’s an interesting question about SheVaCon/RoVaCon. I remember RoVaCon but don’t know if it morphed into SheVaCon or not. Anybody out there know the answer?

 

Dear Mike,

Thanks for letting me read the stories that constitute Mazes. If you like, you may use the following as a publicity comment:

“These four low-key, odd, and heartfelt tales contain, in embryo, a powerful talent. ‘Greek Garden’ is a gender-reversed Pygmalion, with another reversal at the end. ‘Grounded’ economically evokes a bizarre and frightening world, with wings. ‘The Touch of Hands Beyond the Maze’ recalls James Patrick Kelly’s ‘Rat’ without in any way borrowing from it. And ‘Storms,’ the longest as well as the most poignant and mysterious of the tales, illuminates with recurrent lightning strikes the adolescence of its troubled heroine. Michail Velichansky will undoubtedly grow as a writer, but Mazes is a fine place to enter the bewitching labyrinth of his fancies.”

Sincerely,
Michael Bishop
October 8, 2004

Mazes, by Michail Velichansky, is Nth Degree’s first foray into the world of chapbooks and Michael Bishop was very generous to take the time to read a copy. I will be screaming his kind words from the rooftops at the next several cons I attend. From one Mike,  for another Mike, to yet another Mike—Thanks!

We’re planning on making our chapbooks available online soon, but in the meantime you can contact me directly at editor@nthzine.com if you’re interested.

 

Mike:

Received my copy of Nth Degree #11 yesterday. First, congratulations on the new page length.

Again, thanks for listing me on the masthead. I may have to put this on my resumé.

I have another fanzine that might be interested in trading with you. It’s Alexiad, edited by Joseph and Lisa Major.

Johnny Carruthers
October 15, 2004

And thanks to Johnny for suggesting Alexiad (contact info on page 10) to me. I’m always on the lookout for good zines. Johnny also recommended Argentus, and has been very gracious in taking Nth Degrees to conventions in the Kentucky area. In fact, the “With Thanks To” column on the Staff page is mostly filled with people that have kindly taken zines to their local cons for me. I am always indebted to the generosity of fans.

 

Hi,
I picked up Nth Degree #11 at Capclave this weekend. I’ve just started reading it and so far like the con reports and book reviews.

If you could list a con I’m involved with, when the time rolls around, I’d greatly appreciate it!

Gaylaxicon 2005
Cambridge, MA
July 1-4, 2005

I see the con listing just has the name, dates, and city/state, but if you’re curious: http://www.gaylaxicon.org/2005/

Cheers,
Kendall P. Bullen
Dealer Room Coordinator, Gaylaxicon 2005
(and Gaylaxicons 1999 & 2000)
October 18, 2004

Here’s another rare glimpse into the inside working of Nth Degree… I generally compile the convention calendars based on flyers that I pick up at the cons I attend. If I still have space leftover in the column, I make an online search for cons I may have missed. I find www.sflovers.org to be an invaluable site for keeping up with convention information. Sending me the information directly though is a sure-fire way to make sure you get listed.

And, starting with this issue, I’ve expanded the convention listings from two months to three and added the con’s URL to make it easier for you the reader to find out more about your favorite cons.

 

Dear Mr. Pederson:

I am writing to renew my subscription to you’re [sic] wonderful publication, Nth Degree. Each issue I have received has been even better than the previous one, and I read them cover to cover. I was wondering if you would ever consider publishing any stories of an erotic/anthropomorphic nature? I was just curious. Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,
Harold Zwick
November 10, 2004

Apparently our cross-over appeal has stretched into the realm of the Furries. Thanks for the kind words, and as to publishing stories about anthropomorphic characters, nobody has sent me any yet. We came close last issue with a story about a woman who had herself genetically mutated into a humanoid manta ray (“Sister Sonata” by Robert Waters). We’ll likely never cross into the realm of eroticism though. Since our magazine is distributed through convention registration bags and freebie tables it’s hard to control the ages of our readers. We’ll slide into a soft “R” rating at times but that’s about as far as we can go.

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #11

by Michael D. Pederson

 

Lately, I’ve been noticing a recurring theme in my weekends. I seem to spend most weekends surrounded by gamers. Lots of guys (many on the heavy side) and a few women (more every year); several of them will hardly leave the room all weekend and quite a few forget to acquaint themselves with soap. Now, I know what you’re thinking—plenty of ink has already been spilled describing the habits of the American Role-Player—but they’re not the gamers that I’m talking about here.

I’m a poker player. I’ve been a fanatic about the game since the early Nineties so it’s interesting to see the new boom in the poker world. One of the things that I keep noticing is the similarities between poker players and Fandom. This really hit home for me this summer while Cate and I were on an Alaskan poker cruise. At the beginning of the week-long cruise it was obvious that most of the people there already knew each other. Many of them either played at the same local casino or knew each other from previous cruises or major tournaments that they had played in. Substitute “local science fiction club” for “casino” and “convention” for “tournament” and we could just as easily be talking about Fandom. The organizers of the cruise reminded me of some the best con committees that I’ve worked with; they were friendly, well organized, and loved talking about past events. The dealers seemed to fill the role that I (and other programming guests) usually take at cons—the professional that was there to work but who also wanted to have as much fun as possible.

By the end of the week we had made several new friends and a little money. I have been noticing the surface similarities between poker rooms and gaming rooms for a while now but at week’s end I was absolutely floored to discover how deep the similarities ran. The poker world is as much of a community as Fandom is.

Right now, poker is enjoying its highest popularity ever. Television shows like The World Poker Tour, Celebrity Poker, and The World Series of Poker have broadened the horizons of poker in ways that old-time players never thought possible. The main event ($10,000 buy-in) in The World Series of Poker has gone from 512 entrants in 2000 to a staggering 2,576 entrants this year. That’s an over 500% increase in four years and it’s directly attributable to television.

Which brings me back to science fiction. Or, more specifically, SciFi. As in the SciFi Channel. If poker players aren’t that different from Fandom and television can grow the poker field by such a large amount then why can’t we experience a similar growth spurt in Fandom? Would a letter writing campaign be successful in bringing science fiction back to the SciFi Channel? I, for one, would love to see con reports on television. They used to run them back when the network was still young. As much as I hate reality television I would even be happy to see a convention-based reality show. Or why not bring back the science fiction interview show that they used to run?

I’m greedy. I want both of my hobbies to be big. Write the SciFi Channel and let them know what you want to see.

 

Faces of Fandom: Alexis Gilliland

Alexis Gillilandby Catherine E. Twohill

 

Alexis Gilliland has been active in Fandom for nearly forty years. Nth Degree sat down with Alexis following a recent Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) meeting hosted at his home in Arlington, VA.

ND: As this is “Faces of Fandom,” show me your face. How did you become involved in Fandom?

AG: Well, I came to Washington when I was in the military service—to Fort McNair—and I got involved with the DC Chess League. I played chess and, early on, I found out about the WSFA and I went to one meeting but they met on Fridays. That was the same day that the chess league had their meeting so there was a conflict. So… I played chess and didn’t think too much more about WSFA. Then, I got married and started a family.

In 1963—two weeks after the birth of our first son—WSFA was involved with Discon 1—the first Washington Worldcon. I was working at the Bureau of Standards and my colleague Bill Evans (who was the treasurer of the con) said, “You’re a science fiction fan. There’s a World Science Fiction meeting this weekend here in Washington within walking distance. You should go.” So, I bought a membership and my wife and I and traded off pass for the weekend. It was a huge convention—800 people—and I didn’t know anyone. I wandered around and thought, “Oh, that’s very interesting.” A couple of years later, by which time we had another son, we got The WSFA Journal #1. They started doing those in Spring, 1965. By this time, with two kids, taking them to chess matches wasn’t really feasible and I was looking for something else. So I thought, “Alright, here was WSFA and it was a lot more infant-friendly than a chess match.”

ND: Capclave is coming up and your wife, Lee, is the Con Chair. Are you involved?

AG: I’m helping with registration and to the extent that I can. It’s always nice to have a reliable ‘second’ around. I ran conventions—six Disclaves (not the infamous year, however) from 1974 to 1978 and then I came back for one more in 1981. I had Asimov as Guest of Honor. We had 1500 people and one of the biggest Disclave’s ever.

ND: How else would you define your involvement in Fandom?

AG: Being involved with fandom takes many forms. WSFA has been meeting in my house since 1967 and the deal was that when I started coming to WSFA, they met in Miss Elizabeth Cullen’s house on Rock Creek Park. It was not as big or as exuberant as the current lot. We’d been meeting there twice a month and the group usually consisted of 10-15 people. Then, we went off to the New York World Convention and, while we were there, her little dog died. Her nephew put her in the Roosevelt Hotel, which was an old-age home. When we came back from the World Convention, we didn’t have a place to meet. So, they started passing around the meetings to different members. Sometime that Fall, we got our first meeting and we’ve been meeting on a regular basis in my house ever since—usually once a month. Once in a while, emergencies come up and we’ll either skip a month here or host two meetings in a month.

Overall, Fandom means you deal with people—you’ll meet people you like and people you don’t like. Some can be real pains in the butt. Some can be exasperating. Basically, however, it’s a social group. It’s people to hang out with, socialize with, schmooze with. There are usually two parties a month and sometimes if there’s a Fifth Friday, someone will volunteer to host a party without a WSFA meeting. I enjoy this group very much.

ND: So, let’s talk about you. From where do you hail?

AG: Oh, around. I was born in Bangor, Maine. In 1940, my dad was a professor of Chemistry at the University of Maine. He got his commission activated so that he went into the Army. Christmas of 1940 was spent in a Baltimore hotel room while he was looking to get settled. It was a really miserable Christmas. We’d moved, didn’t know anybody and the cat died. We lived in Baltimore for a while then moved to Texas, Los Angeles and Lafayette, Indiana. My dad got out of the Army and became a chemistry professor at Perdue University. I went to Perdue and got a Bachelor of Chemistry degree and was going on to Grad School when I got drafted. So, in 1954, I had to call it quits with my education.

ND: Did you serve overseas?

AG: No, that’s how I got to Washington, DC. I had applied for OCS, which took me out of the pipeline. Half of my company went to Korea and half went to Germany. Those of us who remained—those in Sick Bay and those like me who had gotten out of the pipeline—were just sitting around waiting for special assignments. I wound up going to Fort Benning. From there, I was sent to Fort McNair. Fort McNair sent an order around—they wanted one man from each company. My First Sergeant said, “Who do we have who’s more decorated than useful?” So, I went.

ND: From there, you moved on to being a family man.

AG: I was married to my first wife, Dolly (E. Dorthea Gilliland) for 32 years. We had two sons, Michael and Charles. Dolly passed away in 1991. Lee (Uba) and I got together and I married her on Halloween of 1993.

ND: Tell me about your art.

AG: The stuff I’m doing is pretty much calligraphic. The art is basically “in the hand”. The drawing is in the service of the joke. The drawing is very minimal but basically the drawing is the hook to hang the joke on. I started by trying to make witty drawings and wasn’t getting anywhere until I started making them talk and doing lettering. So, I was writing but it had to be very concise, very lapidary. You’re on a 3×5 piece of paper and you can’t fill it up with text. You’ve got to have the minimum text to get the joke across. Sometimes you have a drawing and you look at it for a while and there’s no caption. A week or two later, you look at it and say, “Oh! That’s what I was thinking. Who knew?”

ND: Who are your influences?

AG: Oh, a number of people. Bill Rotsler, Heinrich Klay—he’s a German artist. (Saul) Steinberg—I have a number of his books. He does wonderful things with line. It looks very simple until you try to do it. I was drawing before I could write. As soon as I could hold a pencil I was trying to draw with it. I found some of my cartoons that I did when I was in college recently. And I don’t think that I am any funnier now. But with all the practice it comes much more easily. I remember that I really worked on those. It took a long time to get where I was going using India ink and a crow quill pen. I now carry three pens (pulling them from his pocket)—the flair tip is for the heavy outline, the ballpoint is for shading, the Pilot pen is for the lettering. What you get is… (begins drawing while Lee’s noisy turtle creates a diversion) …here’s your basic sketch…Caption?

…here’s a little hair… a gray suit.

ND: Is there a joke?

AG: Oh, of course (draws a bubble and, um… joke).

ND: Can I have this?

AG: Oh sure, it’s a demonstration just for you.

ND: (Still contemplating joke) Let’s talk about your real writing…

AG: All told, I’ve published seven novels. I began by publishing two books in 1981. Those two novels were the beginning of a science fiction trilogy that we called the Rosinante series (Long Shot for Rosinante, Revolution from Rosinante and The Pirates of Rosinante). Following the first two books’ release, I won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. My next three books were the fantasy trilogy, Wizenbeak. If I had known I was writing a trilogy when I started out, they would have been Wizenbeak, General Wizenbeak and Wizenbeak Rex. Instead, Wizenbeak was followed by a more flowery title: The Shadow of Shaia. Lord of the Troll-Bats was the third in the series. My seventh book was a stand-alone book entitled The End of the Empire. And I’ve had some short stuff published. But the market for short stuff isn’t what it used to be.

ND: Are you still writing?

AG: I have a novel in submission and I have a short novella in submission. The novella’s kind of strange and it’s been turned down by a couple of people but it’s still out there.

ND: What other honors have been bestowed upon you?

AG: I have four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist (1980, 1983-85) and three FAAn (Fanzine Activity Achievement) Awards. I still have at least one of those statues around here somewhere. Randy Bathurst made a little sculpture of a stylized mimeograph with a can of beer on top of it looking shocked.

ND: Over the years, I’m sure you’ve seen many changes in Fandom. What changes stand out for you the most?

AG: It used to be that there was a little group of people and they did Fanzines. In order to do a Fanzine, you need a mixture of creativity and a certain engineering savvy and a doggedness to do grunt work like typing up your stencils. In those days, to do a Fanzine, you’d typed a stencil on a mimeograph and then you used correction fluid to correct your mistakes. Then you typed them over and then you took the stencil and put it on the drum and then hand-crank the drum to produce copies of one-side of one page. Times change. Today, you go down to Kinko’s and you hand them your pages and you ask for 50 or however many copies printed on both sides. There will be 12 pages and you want them stapled and the machine goes chunkachunkachunk and it comes out stapled. The machine does it all—when it works—and all you have to do is pay some money. The writing and composition is all done on computers. I did my first four novels in long-hand for the first draft. Then I got around to typing up the second draft. Going to computer from that was very liberating as it lets you re-order your paragraphs and pages so that you can put your ideas down—not the way you thought them out but the way they should be. So my first four novels—science fiction—were written in long-hand while my fantasy trilogy was typed on a computer. Go figure. Also, the Internet has been a big change. I hear there are five pages on the Web about me but I haven’t looked at them.

ND: So, you’re a scientist, artist, writer—quite the Renaissance man. What else do you do?

AG: I make very good deviled eggs.

 

Letters of Comment: Issue #11

 

We look forward to receiving your letters at editor@nthzine.com.

 

Mike,

I got the issues of Nth Degree #6 yesterday and was blown away! The magazine looks slick and professional, and when I read the story, “Smoke,” I realized that the writing is of professional quality too. You should be selling Nth Degree! It is better than a good many semi-pro zines I won’t name. No joke.

Of course, I am thrilled to see my work on the cover, especially that particular piece—it was one of my favorites, one that I painted just for the heck of it, and I hated to see it go to waste. Glad that you noticed it, and that Rob wrote the story! “Smoke” has such fantastic Gnostic overtones, the whole concept of hatred of the flesh, the computer ‘smoke’ reaching sentience and becoming a god. I kept comparing the story to the “story” I imagined while I painted the picture. In my mind, the man was facing a computer screen, (that’s the source of the light), and the horrible little worm-creatures are springing out of it. My son posed for it, (he says I’m constantly putting him in the most horrible situations in my art, but what’s a Mom for?) and I think I got the idea watching him sitting up late in front of the computer. Maybe I was trying to scare him into turning the darn thing off.

Well, thank you again for putting my art on the cover. One suggestion—Nth Degree needs a letter column!

Cover #6Best,

Julia Morgan-Scott

As you can see we’ve been waiting for quite some time to establish a letters column. This letter goes back a whole year. Julia was kind enough to donate cover illustrations for Issues #5 and #6. I liked the cover for Issue #6 so much that I asked my Associate Editor, Rob Balder, to write a story to go along with the cover. This was actually the first cover to illustrate a story. If you missed it, here’s what it looked like:

 

Michael:

Thanks for Nth Degree #8 and congratulations on all the success. I never would have thought you’d manage, but you seem to have found a viable niche and I’m glad to see it.

I love the Lake George, NY area. Especially in October when the colors are changing. As a student I was very active with the Rensselaer Outing Club and we hosted an annual event around Columbus Day on Turtle Island in the middle of the lake. We used to base our flotilla of canoes from Lake George Village (the water institute just north of town), but when we lost that space we switched to the YMCA camp on the east side of the lake. The distance was longer, but across a less open portion of the lake and they were very accommodating. One year it snowed Saturday night and everyone bailed out early on Sunday. One of my tasks was to make sure they all ate something before they began the trip back. It was actually more pleasant had they waited a few hours to make the return journey.

Until next issue…

Henry L. Welch
Editor, The Knarley Knews

Henry’s Knarley Knews is about as far from Nth Degree as you can get in the fanzine spectrum. For starters, he passed the 100-issue milestone this year, something we won’t be doing for a looooong time. Henry started TKK as a means of keeping in touch with old friends and it has grown from a simple perzine into a great mix of family updates, editorials, and LOCs as well as artwork from many of the best fan artists in the biz. I love the fact that fandom can encompass such a wide range of publications. Of course, it’s also nice to hear positive comments from an established ziner. Sometimes it’s tough being the new kid in school.

Henry’s comments about Lake George refer back to Andy World’s review of last year’s Albacon. Everyone that I’ve talked to that went to the con says the same thing, that it was one of the most beautiful con sites they’d ever been to.

 

Mike,

It was great meeting you at ConCarolinas, as well as being on the “Pirates in SF&F” panel with you. I wish we’d had more time to talk. You seem very down-to-earth.

I hope you had a good time at the con, and were able to do a lot of promoting and make good contacts. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for the web-radio show “Requiem of the Outcast” (it will “air” in two or three months).

My photographer, assistant, and sister Peggy took a lot of photos. I plan to add a page of them to my website within the next few weeks.

If you would like a CD of the 138 photos that Peggy shot of ConCarolinas 2004, just email me a snail-mail address and I will be happy to send you a complimentary copy. I look forward to seeing you again at future cons.

Talk to you later,

Stephen Euin Cobb

I was hoping to use some of Peggy’s photos in this issue but I just didn’t have the space (although some of them made the website). If you want to see how much fun we had at ConCarolinas you can see the photos at www.stevecobb.com.

 

Dear Mr. Pederson,

Two days ago at Kinko’s I met a cool guy by the name of J. Andrew from jandreworld.com. We had a great conversation and he told me about Nth Degree and that you are looking for artists.

I was writing you now to let you know that I am an artist and I would love to do some work for your zine ASAP! I am aware that there is no pay, but I need the exposure.

Hope to hear from you soon,

John Eboigbe

We’re always looking for new talent and I’m hoping to have one of John’s illustrations in an upcoming issue. You can check out his work at www.astromercs.com. And if you’re interested in sharing your creations with us, our submissions guidelines are posted at nthzine.com/submissions. In the meantime, we want to hear from you. Keep those letters coming!

 

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!

 

Pro Files: Bruce Sterling

by Michael D. Pederson

 

I recently had the wonderful experience of listening to Bruce Sterling read from his latest novel, The Zenith Angle. He is an amazingly energetic reader and—don’t let the gentle Texas accent fool you—quite a powerful speaker. Bruce was gracious enough to sit down with me for a few minutes after the reading…

ND: During the reading I noticed that you alternately described yourself as a novelist and a journalist. Do you consider yourself more one than the other?

BS: Well, I’m a novelist and a journalist. I think the two feed on one another pretty well. I was trained as a journalist in school, I have a degree in journalism but I never actually went to work as a full-time journalist until twenty years after because I made the tactical error of selling a novel in school. As a journalist I have something to contribute so I’m happy to work in that field.

ND: You have a reputation of being a very technology-oriented author, computer tech particularly. Did your cyber-interests come out of your research or were you already well-versed in the field?

BS: I do write a lot about computers because they have basically affected every area that I’m interested in, but I also write travel journalism and industrial design journalism. I’ve been known to write essays about architecture. I’ve never done any biography. Yet. But you know, one does get tempted. One of the reasons that computers tend to pop up in my work a lot is that I use them for research. So if you’re going to use the internet quite frequently, you know, you research Prague on the internet it’ll be anxious to tell you about every internet site in Prague. For people of my generation computers have their role the way that hot air balloons did for Jules Verne. I don’t idolize them, I just consider them an interesting technical phenomenon in this epoch. I’m not a computer guy, I’m a technology guy.

ND: So, what kind of system do you use?

BS: I’m mostly working on Mr. Laptop here. I’ve got a Mac G4 now. I’m a Mac guy—artists are Mac guys—I’ve always been a Mac guy. I bought a PC once, it was so badly broken, just as a designed object that I had to give it to my daughter so she could play games. I’m very taken with my digital camera now ’cause I’m spending so much time web blogging. I’m no photographer but I like web blogs and their multi-media aspects. I like putting my own graphics on my web logs instead of just cutting and pasting other peoples’.

ND: Did science fiction have a big influence on you as a kid?

BS: Oh, yes. Very much so. I was a devoted science fiction person from the age of thirteen.

ND: Favorite authors?

BS: Well, when you’re thirteen you like Edgar Rice Burroughs. But who doesn’t? I really think the weirdest thing… the most influential part there was not Burroughs or Andre Norton or Heinlein juveniles but the fact that I was sort of stumbling over J.G. Ballard and Italo Calvino at age thirteen. I can remember reading Ballard and being utterly confused and hugely excited because there was something going on there that I didn’t understand, could not get my head around. It was mind boggling. And it’s not really fit reading for a thirteen year-old but that was the very thing that most intrigued me about it.

ND: Ballard would be great for really opening up your mind at that age.

BS: Well, somebody said recently that one of the signatures of my kind of writing is “unholy glee.” It didn’t occur to me until recently but Ballard is absolutely chock-full of unholy glee. So he’s a fellow spirit in some important ways I think.

ND: Let’s talk a little about your current book.

BS: I had a guy comment today that he hated the villain and the villain was really no good. He was hissing the villain which was kind of nice. My books generally lack hissable villains but this one has got a villain.

ND: Have the science fiction reviewers turned on you for writing a techno-thriller rather than a straight out SF novel?

BS: I don’t thinks so. I’ve got three short story collections, I’ve got eight other novels. They’re all unimpeachably science fiction things. I never make any bones about being a science fiction writer. I quite commonly identify myself as a science fiction writer. The field gets upset when people say, “Oh, well, that stuff I was writing isn’t really science fiction.” If you’re pulling a Vonnegut people get upset. If you’re Robert Silverberg and you decide “I’ve got to write a book about the Mound Builder Indians” nobody gets all that upset. It’s when they feel disowned and used that they get upset. I’m not disowning or using anybody. I just wrote the Encyclopedia Brittanica article on science fiction for heaven’s sake. I’m a science fiction critic. I’m blurbing science fiction people right and left. I’ve written essays on science fiction. I’m a science fiction ideologue. I’m the cyber-punk science fiction, you know.

ND: What are you reading now?

BS: I’m reading Doctorow, Straw, MacLeod. I’m reading M. John Harrison, little China Miéville.

ND: I’m constantly pushing Miéville on everyone I know.

BS: Well, man, these are the top guys in our field right now. Neal Stephenson, very important guy. There’s not a huge lack of talent. There’s kind of a lack of fame. I’m a little worried about these cross-generic trends. Miéville, Stephenson… they’re writing books which contain all genres all at once. Like Neal Stephenson’s book is a techno-thriller and a historical book and a science fiction book and it’s fantasy. And Miéville’s is a horror book and a dark terror book except its got women with insect heads. What it reminds me of more than anything else is Bollywood masala movies. You watch Bollywood flicks and they’re presented for a polyglot audience. So they’ve got an internal clock, it’s like: dance scene, dance scene, villain scene, vamp scene, dance scene, dance scene, fist fight, dance scene. I think it’s something about globalized society or just the way that younger people are thinking about the world now. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting old but I find something vaguely distressing about it.

ND: We’re hearing so much more about Bollywood these days and it even figures into your novel, do you see them ever breaking through into the mainstream culture?

BS: They’re going to be for the Aughts what Kung Fu movies were for the Seventies. They’re not going to dominate but they’re the hip exotic thing to be into now.

ND: You open The Zenith Angle with the line, “The Most Important Man in the World put his pants on one leg at a time.” Who would you consider to really be The Most Important Man in the World?

BS: Bin Laden, if he’s still alive. He’s certainly the most effective terrorist the world has ever seen. This guy is the Ghandi of terror. He’s certainly the most effective politician, assuming he’s not dead. And even if he is dead he may very well be more effective dead than alive. Christ certainly was. You know, he’s a martyr cultist. But really, objectively, if you just look at the direction that the world is changing and how much effect this guy has had on major organizations there are very few who can match him. He’s truly a mover and shaker.

ND: Do you have any tips for the next generation of writers?

BS: Yeah, you’ve got to hang out with people in your own generation. You’re going to learn more from them than you do from so-called mentors or instructors. Job one is to find your own voice. What are you saying that other people aren’t saying? Generally it’s something that many people who share your interests are trying to say. It’s an inchoate thing, it’s the thing that is next and mentor figures or guru figures are not going to be able to tell you that. You’re going to have to learn about the trend-setters who are your own age. You’ve got to take them seriously and you’ve got to give and take with them. Hanging out with writer’s groups works for me. If it doesn’t there are other ways to do it but that’s kind of the royal road to success.

 

The Editor’s Rant: Issue #9

by Michael D. Pederson

 

It might be time to change the name of this column. I had originally thought up the idea of giving myself a page to rant about little things that were irking me when I was in my late-twenties and publishing a local entertainment magazine. Now here I am in my mid-thirties and I don’t seem to be in much of a ranting kind of mood. This scares me a little. Am I no longer an “angry young man”? And if not, can I at least gracefully slide into the status of “crotchety old man”?

Now that I think about it though, I have much nicer toys now than I had then. It’s hard to be too angry when you have a really bitchin’ home entertainment system. We live next door to a major military installation, and I’m pretty sure that there have been a couple of times when I’ve had The Lord of the Rings cranked up so loud that the Marines have started mobilizing to prevent an Uruk-hai invasion of central Virginia. Not that an Uruk-hai invasion of central Virginia would be a bad thing. I can’t imagine it would make the traffic any worse. It might even improve things. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been stuck behind a driver who could be out-smarted by your average orc.

Oooh! That’s it! I do have a rant in me.

If ninety percent of everything is crap—and I’m pretty sure that this applies to people too—then it follows that a rapidly increasing population should make it more difficult for one to sort out the worthwhile ten percent. I suppose that this is yet another advantage of Fandom. It’s been my experience that the average fan is more intelligent and creative than the average man-on-the-street (take a bow, you know I’m right). Of course, the average fan’s social skills are generally sub-par too (yes, sadly, you know I’m right again) but that’s not a problem because we’re such a forgiving lot as well.

In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that the mundanes—straights, norms, muggles, proles, plebes—might be a little jealous of fandom. That would explain the ongoing conspiracy to shut down conventions on the east coast. “Conspiracy?” you ask. Yes, it all seems innocent at first glance but when you start to put the pieces together you see a pattern…

Disclave ’97. A New York cop (not a registered member of the con) handcuffs the “M” half of his S&M couple to a sprinkler head. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens when you bust the head off an emergency sprinkler. Or maybe it does. Result: no more Disclave.

JerseyDevilCon ’03. A girl’s high school basketball team is staying at the same hotel. After being told they can’t drink at the Nth Degree party they wander down to the lobby where they decide to lift the kilt of a man dressed as the Jersey Devil. Oddly, the man who had his personal space violated was the one taken to jail that night after the kids’ coach filed a complaint. No more JerseyDevilCon (that’s not the reason the con closed, but it didn’t help).

Philcon ’03. At 5:00 AM, the fire alarm goes off. We later discover that another group staying at the hotel (I think it was a wedding party, but don’t quote me on that) had accidentally started a trashcan fire. Fortunately Philcon is a well-established convention and can shrug off a little event like that. It was still irritating though.

We’re taught when we’re young that police officers, teachers, and married people are respectable and that we should be just like them. Thank goodness we aren’t.