The Official Newsletter of PARSEC


February 2002, Issue 193

Kevin's Comments

By Kevin Hayes

How is it that we are so lucky? I mean, we have so many really talented people among us. I don't know whether this situation is because of the kinds of people we are, or something in the water, or what, but if you take a look at us as a club, we have, as participants, a relatively large number of artists and writers -- good ones on both accounts. I will grant you, among the SF community there is the saying, "If you scratch the surface of a fan, you'll find a writer." And I guess, to an extent, it's true. A lot of writers -- famous writers -- started as fans motivated to express themselves.

To be sure, one generally writes what one enjoys reading, but what would Spider Robinson write if he hadn't read the story in Analog and said to himself, "I can write better than that. . ." And if anybody hasn't heard the story of the meeting between Asimov and Ellison, I'm sure any number of us can relate one version or another. One of my favorite stories is how Robert Heinlein responded to a short story contest. His story caught the eye of the editor -- John Campbell, I believe -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

I don't know whether we have any incipient Asimovs, Ellisons, Robinsons or Heinleins, but we do have titans of the written word of our own. It is with nothing short of amazement that I look at the people we have closely associated with PARSEC: Philip (William Tenn) Klass -- a Nebula Award Author Emeritus (and his latest endeavor "Immodest Proposals"); his talented wife -- and Writer of the Future winner -- Fruma Klass; Mary Soon Lee (with her first anthology just out "Winter's Tale and Other Stories"); Wendy (Wen Spencer) Kosak (getting ready to publish her second novel "Tainted Trail" due out in June). And then there is multiply published Timons Esaias, Alan Irvine, and writing machine William Keith. Not to mention the lesser notables among us who have edited and/or written worthy stories that have seen various hard copy and e-publications(remember "Six from PARSEC"? It's still available for the two or three of you who haven't gotten their copy yet). If I have forgotten anyone, I humbly abase myself and ask your forgiveness.

Now just take a look at the Artists. Different media and different styles, but explorers of the unusual in a visual mode, all. Gene Fenton and his fantastic papier mache animal/dinosaur/mythical beasts and Chris Hutson with her intricate illustrations of insects, real and realistically fantastic. Imagine what a zoo would be like if they put it together. William Keith -- again -- and his planetscapes and cityscapes, Barbara Albert and all the things she's done from story illustrations to paintings and planetscapes of her own. Nancy Janda and T-shirt designs, illustrations and her own fantasy paintings. Bonnie Funk -- who told me she doesn't do too much in the way of fantasy and SF art, but landscapes still qualify in my book. Robert Brust and his mixture of fantastic and mundane. And Amy and Kira and Henry and everyone else I can't think of right now.

Not to mention the people who do these things and a few other people who know they indulge. Writers and artists among us who don't call attention to themselves. Hard to believe.

One of the things that keeps them going, one of the things we have in common is the support we find in each other. We get and give feedback. We get and give inspiration and suggestions for improvement and we do it with the hope that we will all get better at what we love.

I know where we all came from in our histories, but consider where the ones that come after us will come from. This is something Diane Turnshek has considered for a long time. She has bent her considerable energies to not only motivating herself to write, but also to motivating others to write as well. I expect her young writers' forum online -- where some of us lurk and contribute from time to time -- has been a major contributing factor to the upsurge in contest submissions to the PARSEC short story contest this year. (Tim has said we have more than 60 submissions and he fears multiple debilitating paper cuts.) Diane is going to enlighten us about young writers: working with, motivating, inspiring and mentoring. In this, the young voices have something a lot of us didn't have until now: a built in support group; people who enjoy the same things, have many of the same ambitions and desires and don't have to worry about whether anybody thinks they're different. They know they are, and so are all of their friends and they revel in it. As do we all.

See you on Saturday.

News Flash

Tim Esaias sold the poem "The Missing" to Mythic Delirium, the DNA Publications poetry magazine, and his poem "Reasons No-One Took Him to Mars in His Lifetime" appeared in Dreams and Nightmares #61. His story "CrashSite" has lingered for several weeks on both the Recent Bestseller and Recent Highest Rated lists at

Mary Soon Lee's recently sold collection of SF stories now has a title: Ebb Tide and Other Tales. She will have a signing of her Fantasy/Horror collection "Winter Shadows and Other Tales" at the Monroeville Borders at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. Mary sold her story "New World" to Interzone. Also, her story "Vigil" was the #5 Dark Fantasy bestseller for 2001.

Not SF, but definitely notable, Bobby Nansel finished editing a Hebrew/Japanese prayer book that is now in print and quite lovely.

Cinemania in the Hall

Movie Reviews by William Hall

Ron Howard, who is probably doomed to his dying day to remain known to America as "Opie," would probably be the first person to admit he's no scientist -- yet that just makes him all the more interesting, for this major director has become one of Science's great layman cheerleaders. True, APOLLO 13 is about a failure, and Howard was worried at first that he would have to dumb it way down, but along the way he learned that the true story was all the more amazing precisely because of all its sticky technical particulars. Now he gives us A BEAUTIFUL MIND, about another sort of failure, which still manages to summon a note of triumph.

Let's be clear about the note, though. In the back of Newsweek, George F. Will, fairly brimming over with a primal lust to see his very surname used in its most heroic verb form, speculates that John Forbes Nash was able to WILL his way to sanity. This is basically the Will view: the stautus quo is pristine and blameless, and those who suffer from poverty, prejudice, or mental imbalance should just plain WILL themselves to conformity. Luckily, the movie itself makes it clear that the imaginary characters born of Nash's paranoid-schizophrenic imagination continue to hound and distract him. His brain still places them before his eyes, but it is only through a mix of simple logic and strong love that he keeps them at bay.

Nash (Russell Crowe) is a great pattern-seeker; the woman of his life (Jennifer Connelly) asks him for a constellation of an octopus, and he handily traces one for her from out of the stars. This quest for pattern leads him to "the Nash equilibrium." "Adam Smith is incomplete," he muses.

If a pack of men at a bar all hit on one blonde, not only will the blonde playfully bat them away, but her brunette gal pals, duly offended to be second choice, will do likewise; however, by agreeing to hit exclusively on the brunettes, each man is assured companionship (to put it in family-friendly terms) and the goddesslike blonde even gets thrown somewhat off her usual balance.

To act for the self is not enough; it is optimal to act for the self AND the group, not just one or the other. (Which is about as good an explanation as any for my leaving the Worldwrights; the group needs freshening up from time to time.)

Nash sees such patterns. Yet this power also proves to be a thing of madness, as he begins to singlehandedly track down terrible enemies by way of thousands of scraps of magazine and newspaper. Without his wife, and her lourish long enough to finally be awarded his Nobel Prize.

So scientific affirmation does triumph over subjectivity -- the exact opposite of the moral of THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES.

MOTHMAN may be "events-based," but it's fiction, certainly the way they've packaged it. The real story is actually more interesting: Bobby Kennedy's assassination is predicted, although a stabbing of the Pope is anticipated in the wrong part of the world.

Richard Gere plays composite character John Klein, a Washington Post "star journalist" (really?) who is also a Sunday morning TV pundit (again: really?). As a result of a car accident in which his wife swerved away from a sudden humanoid apparition, he learns that she has a rare type of brain tumor. Two years after her death, he finds himself gravitating ever back to the pointedly unpleasant vicinity of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where people report strange lights, sounds, phone calls -- and, yes, humanoid apparitions. Local police officer Laura Linney becomes a sort of Scully to Gere's Mulder, as Gere gets swept up in intensely personal experiences that defy corroboration.

At first I was against this movie, if only because director Mark Pellington overrelies on the same flashy gimmicky style found in the highly irresponsible flick STIGMATA. However, a story does emerge, and even some themes. What good is prophecy, if it's going to be ambiguous, or if it's going to drive you mad trying to anticipate it? Given the power to contact the dead, would you really want to do it? How DO you explain yourself to a cockroach, beyond simply killing it? Is the Mothman, who calls himself Indrid Cold, good or evil? If you have to make a paranormal contact, why must it be with Indrid Cold and not, say, Ingrid Bergman? Questions abound.

The Pittsburgh area gets cannibalized as loosely as the source material. The main shooting was in Kittanning, while the in-city shooting gets used almost laughably. Gere sits and broods near Heinz Chapel, yet we never see the chapel nor the Cathedral of Learning. He talks with Alan Bates -- yes, Alan Bates -- in Mellon Square, then Bates says "Let's walk over here," they cross a street -- and boom, they're at that CMU software center in Oakland. Some shortcut!

MIND and MOTHMAN make an interesting pair. Without their highly subjective terrors, there are no movies. Yet one wishes to be free of the terrors, while the other is clearly intrigued by them. There's something for everyone -- or for two distinct parts of one single well-rounded (though not necessarily beautiful) mind.

Last Meeting

Meeting Minutes by Joan Fisher
January 12, 2002

At 2:10pm the raffle was started by Greg and Mia. Dues were collected, and membership cards handed out. Kevin Hayes won the raffle and he let a new person, Janna Zuroski, pick the prize.

Kevin started the meeting off at 2:30, by welcoming everyone to the first meeting of the New Year. It was announced that Mary Soon Lee has a book signing in Monroeville Borders on the 14th of March at 7:30pm.

Greg did a quick summary of the treasurer's report for the year 2001. It was announced that we are trying to get our 501c3, it is the non-profit status for PARSEC. Randy Hoffman sent out a message that Pete Grubbs has offered to let us use his house for a house filk on Jan. 19th.

A Chinese auction is planned to support Alpha; Alpha is the SF/F/H workshop for young writers to be held at Robert Morris University scheduled for July 22-26, 2002. Heidi mentioned that she thought it might be a better idea to have the Chinese auction in April, when our guest will be Jay Apt: shuttle astronaut and past director of the Carnegie Science Center. Diane said she is also talking about putting items on e-bay to help raise the money for the kids that would like to attend Alpha but may not have the fee. You are welcome to make a donation for Young Writers as well.

Kevin asked for a date for the picnic in August, he wanted to know which week 2nd or 3rd; 2nd week was decided.

Confluence writing contest, there are 14 submissions at the moment- -the topic is "Well Met by Moonlight".

Kevin Hayes sold a short story- "The Thithshtach Diner" to an on line publication! It should be out in the February issue as opposed to May when it was originally scheduled.

At 2:45- Kevin introduced Tim Esaias as the Guest speaker- The topic- "On Killing". This is the 4th time he has been asked to give this talk, at several conventions and writers groups, and has several more requests for the future. A lot of his talk was based on the book "On Killing," by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, he is a military historian, paratrooper, ranger, and a psychologist.

Tim said that reading this book was a great experience and that it resolved several of mysteries of "why."

Another book that was used as reference- (Out of print) "Numbers, Predictions and WAR", by Colonel T. N. Dupuy. This book uses history to evaluate combat factors and predict the outcome of battles, it is only available in the military - this gentleman created formulas and equations on war and whether it could be predicted.

Tim described several battles where the numbers don't seem to make sense.

Hit rates- Rorkes Drift- Brits surround by Zulus, Brits accounted for every round; Zulus kept verbal records, 1879 - 13 shots per hit. Rosebud Creek, 1876 - 252 shots/hit Wussen Borg, 1870 - 119 shots/hit WW1 - 400 shots/hit Vietnam - 50,000 shots/hit

The Army focused on a special investigation on what a soldier did in combat. They chose 400 companies and they debriefed soldiers (during standard g2 debriefs). Some of the questions were what did you do, did weapon work, what did ememy do?

What did you do with your weapon? Not fire 80-85% 20-15% did.

Crew served of weapons posture fire: and if you take these out then you get the ones who actually pulled out their weapon and fired: 2%.

98% won't point and fire, but stayed; ran messages, pulled wounded off line, delivered ammo, generally aided anyway they could. They stayed and did their jobs - so not firing doesn't mean not brave.

2% - on your best day, there are snipers that can kill at 100 yards and cannot fire closer. Face to face is harder than at a distance. Crew serve weapons- two guys on weapon, they will fire all the time at any distance. Sergeant can go over and say 'shoot now'; there was a good chance the soldier will break down and Sergeant was often shot dead.

'Posture fire': blind fire, pull trigger if reasonable chance to hit. With the M16, the Army was hoping they (soldiers) would hit even by accident.

Israelis did these studies; they tried smaller companies with smaller units. They found that less people will shoot. What did you do instead? Loading and passing for the ones firing.

In line for 28 days you will have 100% casualties all psychological and in essence that is permanent

In Vietnam, we recognized (officially) post traumatic stress. There are guys that were made to shoot, and there is 98% of the guy s that did not pull the trigger, and they have the same problem. Resistance to making elite units you have a hard time identifying the people that will fire. They may fire that day and it is tough to pick out the sociopath that will shoot for you!

Fighter aircraft one percent of the single crew fighter pilots get kills the ones that did were two or more in the crew. Soon all fighters had two seats. Basically they have found that the above is the case. Responsibility: this is why there are two there- one might not kill but two will.

Confluence Update

July 26-28, 2002 at the 4 Pts Sheraton @ Pittsburgh airport
Report by Ann Cecil

All of the filk concert slots (planned to be less than last year's incredible 9 concerts) are confirmed, except for the Featured Filker (the Saturday night concert that follows the play). There is discussion about adding some opportunity for folks who want to do 'one shots'; a performance of one song (only). These one-shots would be open to anyone, and be allocated on a first signed up, first alloted basis.

The play - ah, the play. It seems there will be another musical travesty - ah - delight, this year. Inspired by the general insanity - ah - amazing creativity shown by the Parallax Players last year, Bobby Nansel is crafting a 'Mission of Levity.'

Hal Clement agreed to be Guest of Honor; invitations have gone out to the usual large number of suspects, some we've enjoyed in the past and hope to see again, some that are new to our area that we hope to entice into joining us. The confluence website (easily reached off the link from the parsec website:, or you can go direct: has all the details, with the growing list as acceptances come in.

Dealer letters have gone out, and Larry Smith books will be back (but not Larry, since there is a conflict on our weekend, but with Sally). Again, the website has details on the dealers, as we see the acceptances.

The prices for the weekend ($25 now, $35 at the door) and day rates (see website) are the same as last year, and if you pay your PARSEC dues before June, you'll be eligible for the discount on the rates!

House Filk Review

Report by Randy Hoffman

Saturday, January 26, turned out to be an awesome day for a long-distance road-trip house filk. It was sunny and moderately warm, and everyone seemed to have gotten a modicum of sleep the night before - including me, even though I had stayed up to read most of "Defender," the new novel in C. J. Cherryh's "Foreigner" series. (First impression: She has learned Robert Jordan's trick of writing entire books that don't advance the plotline.) So at 2:00 in the afternoon we set out separately in three cars for Pete Grubbs' house in Brookville, PA (all the way up Route 28 until just beyond the junction with I-80). Ann, Sasha, Tom, and I were in Ann's van; Heidi and April went in Heidi's car and stopped in to see relatives; and Greg and Mia took Mia's car because they wanted to take Pete up on his offer to stay over Saturday night, which the rest of us weren't going to be able to do.

We rendezvoused at the "Country Fair" restaurant outside Brookville at around 4 p.m. and waited for Pete to come and lead us the rest of the way along the back roads to his house. (I was the only one who had been there before, and I wasn't confident enough about my being able to remember the landmarks to try to get us there. Pete didn't bother sending directions, even though there aren't many turns or intersections to worry about, because apparently when he's tried to do that, people manage to get lost anyway. He did have a good time trying to get Mia to believe a straight-faced yarn about coyotes and wolves and bridges washing out, though).

The only real hazard we faced on the rest of the way to Pete's was the two-inch-thick glacier of ice covering his driveway. Once we managed to get the cars situated, we trooped inside, put the junk food we'd brought on the kitchen table, and looked around the place a bit. Pete's home studio, where all his pet guitars happen to live, is very impressive. He played us a pretty-well-finished recorded version of his song "I'm Still Standin'," inspired by the events of September 11, which will be on his next album (I can't wait!). Then we shot the breeze for a bit in the living room, at which point Pete's wife Jill arrived with their 6-year-old son Cecil, as well as a turkey she had baked over at Pete's parents' place (the oven in Pete's kitchen doesn't work too well). Cecil, who is a treasure, entertained us by singing a couple of the songs he knows in his clear, sweet voice - a lovely mixture of various children's songs and hymns - and then, just before we tucked into dinner, grown daughter Bethany and hubby J.D. arrived, bringing their 6-week-old baby girl. (Suddenly the kitchen had become very crowded.)

After we ate, the filking began in more earnest, continuing through the evening. I did a few of my newer numbers, including "Dreck of the Elementary School Kid" (a parody of Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald") and "Swede Demotion" (a parody of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," about the Muppets' Swedish Chef), both of which I had debuted at GAFilk a couple of weeks earlier. Pete contributed several songs (which, embarrassingly enough, I don't remember the titles for) and an extended improv guitar noodle that left the rest of us shaking our heads because we were certain it was a real song. We all joined in on a Monty Python song or two, and Cecil continued to chime in with pieces now and then, including an impressive trek all the way through nine of the ten numbered verses of "The Ants Go Marching" (to the tune of "Johnny Comes Marching Home"), of which he forgot only verse number three and a couple of the rhyming verbs. The most pleasant surprise of the evening was that Mia actually played more than one song; she treated us to at least four of them, including Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee" and Tracy Chapman's "For My Lover." We all enjoy listening to her and hope she'll keep it up.

At last -- after we had taken in numerous performances and accepted several of Cecil's invitations to come downstairs and see his new train set and tricycle -- things wrapped up and all of us left. Aside from some hair-raising adventures escaping the driveway and a reminder from a nice policeman about getting the headlight fixed, those of us in the van had a fairly uneventful trip home. [Mia and Greg actually beat Ann and Tom and Sasha home, thanks to the van's side trip to Ford City to drop Randy off at his parents.]

All in all, although it was a delightful excursion, I can't in good conscience call it a successful filk. Like most of our previous house filks, there simply weren't enough performers present to provide variety and avoid those awkward "So are you going to sing again, or do I have to sing again?" moments. We're planning to have the next one at Ann, Greg, and Mia's on the Saturday evening after the March PARSEC meeting, and I hope more of you will make it to that one. In the meantime, I'll continue my efforts to suck in the folk-music performers who come out to the acoustic open mikes in Pittsburgh. One day, we'll achieve critical mass, and then - POW! To the moon, Tom Corbett!

Well, a guy can dream, can't he?


by Charles Pellegrino
Review by John H. Branch

And when the dust had cleared, they were all dead. The End.

No, its not quite that bad; some people do survive, but in the hands of Charles Pellegrino, a book such as Dust becomes the ultimate ecologicalcatastrophe thriller. One of the most frighteningly plausible books ever written, Dust begins with the discovery that all the insects in the world have suddenly died off, and it ends with a nuclear holocaust.

At first, a world without insects does not seem so bad. We would all certainly be better off without the pests anyway. No more flies, mosquitos, cockroaches, etc. But then the implications of such a wholesale die-off become apparent as things die and there is nothing to aid in the process of decay. And what about the flowering plants? They rely on insects for pollination. You get the picture. Without insects, there would be no more farming. And what about those tiny microscopic mites that populate our world? Without insects they would proliferate and run rampant, perhaps even becoming carnivorous in the process.

A scary thought.

As one crisis leads to another, it begins to look as though Mankind is doomed. But the major protagonist of the story is a scientist named Richard Sinclair, and he has an idea to take DNA from ancient insects, millions of years old, preserved in amber and use that to create more insects. Once the scientists have developed the technology, the race is on to repopulate the Earth before Man is destroyed by nature or before he destroys himself.

A scientist himself, Dr. Pellegrino realistically shows his scientists in action as they brainstorm one idea after another in their quest to preserve Mankind.

Although some parts of Dust are pretty horrific particularly when it depicts the survivors of a nuclear blast, I heartily recommend this book to anyone looking for an exciting, thought-provoking adventure.

Next Meeting

NEXT MEETING: Feb 9, 2002, 12:30 PM to 4:45 PM
LOCATION: Squirrel Hill Branch of the Carnegie Library

PLEASE: We encourage people to bring a munchie or drink contribution ... pop, chips, cookies, etc.

TOPIC: Diane Turnshek on 'Mentoring Young People'

PARSEC Tentative Meeting Schedule

February 2002
Time & Date : 9 February 2002
Discussion Topic : Diane Turnshek on 'Mentoring Young People'
Location : Squirrel Hill Branch of Carnegie Library

March 2002
Time & Date : 9 March 2002
Discussion Topic : annual 'Topics' meeting led by Ann Cecil
Location : Squirrel Hill Branch of Carnegie Library

April 2002
Time & Date : 13 April 2002
Discussion Topic : astronaut Jay Apt on "What it's like up there"
Location : Thaw Hall at the University of Pittsburgh

May 2002
Time & Date : 11 May 2002
Discussion Topic : Art Show and Tell
Location : Squirrel Hill Branch of Carnegie Library

The Editors of Sigma welcome your input! Send your columns, commentary, reviews, rants, letters, laughs, input, and throughput to us! Send art, too!

To Contact PARSEC

phone: 344-0345
mail: PO Box 3681, Pittsburgh, PA, 15230


The Pittsburgh Area Realtime Scientifiction Enthusiasts Club

President: Kevin Hayes

Vice President: Heidi Pilewski

Treasurer: Greg Armstrong

Editor: Don Cox

Secretary: Joan Fisher

Commentator: Ann Cecil

Meetings: The second Saturday in each month.

Dues: $10 full, $2 supporting.

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