Three Monkeys - Ten Minutes : Presidents Page Feruary 2002

On my way to the January PIG, I was driving along the motorway when I noticed the number plate of the car a little way ahead of me. It was a personalised plate which read "ZHADUM". All the Babylon 5 fans will be saying "ooh" about now. And to be clear that this was a B5 reference, this was one of those plates with further text above and below the main registration code. In this case it said "If you go to ZHADUM you will die". If anybody knows who the woman driving this car is, please tell Richard Manks - I think he wants to marry her. I relate this story to make the point that there are a lot of people who are not part of the SF fandom community but who are still rabid fans of particular shows. Another example would be a work colleague of mine who sent out a general e-mail to the rest of the company which included a note regarding her sadness at the loss of her dear friend Buffy. Well I guess she will be sad until season 6 starts anyway.

It is highly likely that most people who are fans of one specific genre related show are not really suited to fandom in general, although it never hurts to ask. However, from time to time events come along which will interest them. I am sure that the B5 fan with the personalised plate will be interested to know that Jason Carter is going to be talking at Phoenix in April. For those of you who have not caught up with this yet, Jason Carter is the actor who played the Ranger Marcus Cole in Babylon 5. Armageddon are bringing him out for their April event in Auckland. On the Wednesday before that event, he is going to be in Wellington. By a happy coincidence, that is also the day of the regular Phoenix meeting, so we have come to an arrangement with Armageddon for him to give a talk. Part of that arrangement is that there will be an admission charge which will go back to Armageddon to cover air fares, accommodation and that kind of thing. It being in the nature of these things that of course the phrase "commitments permitting" has to be thrown in there.

Putting the above elements together there is something I need you to all do. Get out there and tell your friends, acquaintances and colleagues about this event. We are not planning any specific publicity, but we do need to get a full house. If you are all able to pass this information along to enough people, word of mouth should be enough to do the rest. You can direct people to the Armageddon web site if they want more details. There are a couple of positive spin offs for the club if we can make this event a success. First it gives us a chance to show off the club and the benefits of joining - in other words this is a recruitment venture. Second, if it is a success then there is every chance that it will get repeated in the future.

Of course you do not need to restrict yourself to the April meeting when spreading the word. Although a Babylon 5 star is more likely to be recognised, Phil Mann is also a real drawcard for us in March. For those of you who have not heard our club patron speak, he is always entertaining and there is a good chance that you might even learn something at the same time. I hesitate to even mention the superstar that we have lined up for February or the chants of "Norman, Norman" will resound around the hills of Wellington. Finally to round out the meeting scheme for the next few months there is the AGM in May. If you are interested in helping make the club better, perhaps you might like to stand for the committee.

I have recently taken the time to read The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke. It was quite a chunk of time too as it is a large volume of nearly a thousand largish pages of small type and small margins. Most of these stories were written in the '40s and '50s. This is to be expected as SF was primarily a short story genre in those days. If you look at the works of Asimov, Heinlein or Dick you see the same pattern. There is another pattern to be seen in the Clarke short stories. They tend to deal in only a small number of themes with a short term technological prophecy element being the most common of those themes. Reading these stories also tells you something about the author. The things which come out in this case are not too surprising. Clark's love of technology, space, the sea and Sri Lanka all appear in his stories. It is also quite evident that he does not like women at all, even though he can't write a decent character of depth to save himself. By the time I had worked my way to the end of this volume I was getting pretty bored with all these things appearing over and over.

By way of comparison, I have also recently read Partners in Wonder by Harlan Ellison. Harlan pretty much only writes short fiction, so my earlier comments about the age of the stories does not quite count in his case except that this particular volume was published in 1971. Harlan does not have any trouble writing characters of depth. In fact under most circumstances Harlan does most things brilliantly when it comes to short fiction. This volume is a big exception however because all the stories have been written in collaboration with someone else - a different partner for each story. In general, for many collaborations, the result is greater than the sum of the parts. There must be something about Harlan which brings out the worst in people and vice versa as, with one exception, these stories are not as good as the individual work of either collaborator. There is a blurb before each story about the circumstances under which the stories were written. These often seem to involve social occasions and very late nights. Apart from being the most entertaining part of the book, they go a long way to explaining its shortcomings.