The Official Newsletter of PARSEC


January 2001, Issue 180


The 13th annual Pittsburgh SF Conference will be held July 20-22, 2001 at the Sheraton Four Points (formerly Wyndham) near the airport; room rates a reasonable $74/night, and the membership same as last year: $25 advance, $35 at the door. David Hartwell will be Guest of Honor.

Kevin's Comments

By Kevin Hayes

I had all sorts of ideas as to what to write for my first president's column for Sigma. I thought about the changes we are facing what with a new US president preparing to be sworn in, and, at least by one set of reckoning, a new century and a new millennium, getting under way. This is something that would have amazed my parents: the beginning of the Twenty-first century. This is the time all those science-fiction writers were writing about. This is the age of everything we have all dreamed about. This is the future. We actually made it. And now that we're here, it's not really that much different from the past; at least so far. We still don't have bases on the moon, no flying cars, no anti-gravity vests. We do have a permanent orbiting space-station -- such as it is. Not much, but it's better than nothing. The Aliens haven't landed Michael Rennie at the White House and provided us with the secrets of peace and plenty. Nobody has shown up at the Devil's Tower and sung a synthesizer duet with Francois Truffaut and then left with new dance partner Richard Dreyfuss. Computers haven't even tried to take over the world, yet.

Some things don't change. Some things do. Ann Cecil is not the president of PARSEC anymore, a position she held for two years that I know of. She nominated me for the post; everyone voted, who wanted to -- and now I'm the guy. I joked with Mia about demanding re-counts and threatening lawsuits; generally tying things up for the next year, forcing Ann to serve yet another year since no one would be taking the office. In spite of the jokes and Mia's congratulatory/concession speech of, "I voted for you, nyaa, nyaa. Sucker." (The shortest concession speech on record that I am aware of.) I want to do my best for he club as the first president of PARSEC here in the future. And here's the funny part: I haven't a clue as to what I'm supposed to be doing. I can run meetings and all that stuff, but I get the feeling from everything I'm hearing, there is lot more to it than that. I have to take care of the raffle prizes and other stuff, too. It might be, in the past, way back in the Twentieth Century, things were handled differently, but I'm going to ask for help. A lot. The first four months of the year have planned programs for the meetings. We will probably be having Confluence this year, in July. So we have the con-panic meeting already set. We had talked about having the PARSEC picnic in July, but August is seeming a better choice at this point. Any thoughts? We have to make reservations for that, as well.

If anybody has any ideas for other programs, let's get them down on paper and invitations sent. One change we already have is a position Joan Fisher inadvertently volunteered for: Field Trip Coordinator. Hopefully, she, with some others will be able to keep us apprised of current information about what cons are going on, who is planning to attend, and logistics associated withal.

PARSEC has grown over the past few years I have been associated with it and I would like to continue that tradition. I have also been given a group in the process of reorganization; PARSEC is looking at incorporation as a non-profit and all the things that can entail. We might be able to do some good with the literacy program in Allegheny County and maybe even across the state, in concert with other clubs, or organizations. Then, who knows, maybe we can extend our influence across the country and then. . . . mwahahahahahaa . . . oh, excuse me. . .nevermind.

Contest Results

From Tim Esaias
The results of the Confluence 2001 Short Story Contest are in. The Committee determined that the quality of the stories in this year's contest warranted the awarding of all three prizes. The winners are:

Our judges were: Prof. Albert Wendland (teaches the Master's Program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill); John Randal (Clarion, Writers of the Future winner, SFWA Active.); and Flonet Biltgen (Clarion, Writers of the Future winner, SFWA Associate.)

Last Meeting

by Ann Cecil
Last PARSEC meeting - December 9, 2000

The annual Christmas party at Ann's house started around 2 p.m. (a few confused souls arrived early and were rewarded by being pressed into service for last minute tasks). Lots of people (all interesting), lots of food (all delicious), lots of talk - and it went on until about 3 am.

To everyone's delight, John DeChancie was present - he still reads SIGMA, even out in California - and he gave us the latest word on his projects (watch the credits on Andromeda).

The party was a Klass act again, with Phil and Fruma and Adina all attending. I'm told that Adina made the terrific chocolate buckeyes, as well as the deviled eggs that disappeared so quickly.

Mark Stewart had the chili honors all to himself this year, but Mia's lasagna and ziti entrees (one veggie, one with meat) barely hit the table before they were consumed.

At around 6 (or a little after), Tim Esaias announced the winners of the Short Story Contest, and presented the prizes to the two winners who were present: Kevin Hayes and Cynthia Crise. Cynthia is not a PARSEC member, but she is a Pittsburgher, and a very pretty one at that.

After that, JJ, who had counted the votes, announced the winners of the PARSEC election: Kevin Hayes for president, Ann Cecil for Commentator, John Cope for VP, Greg Armstrong for Treasurer, and Tom Morrow for Secretary.

Everyone then went back to talking, drinking, talking, eating, and talking. The new arrangement, with one room on the second floor devoted to TV and one room devoted to gaming, seemed to work out well, and will be continued next year. Buying chairs was another move on Ann's part that seemed to be appreciated. The only problem was that very few people borrowed books, so Ann will have to tackle the bookcase crisis sooner than planned.

2000 Sapphire Award Finalists

The finalists for best science fiction romance novel are:

The finalists for best science fiction romance short story are:

The winners will be announced in mid-January. In keeping with the tradition started last year, all winners will receive a genuine heart-shaped sapphire in addition to a certificate for the winner and the winner's editor.


DUES are now due (unless you paid at the Christmas party).

Dues are $10 annually; if there is a second person at the same address who does not want a separate copy of SIGMA, they can pay $2 for their membership. (this is usually a spouse or children, but can be anyone). The $2 membership entitles you to vote, get the Confluence discount, etc. It just means you don't get your own SIGMA.

PARSEC also accepts barter: if you have artwork or books (in mint condition) you want to donate for the raffle, they can be credited as a $10 membership (or $12) at the discretion of the PARSEC President.

Movie Review

Dungeons & Dragons
By: A Long-Time Fan of D&D who wishes to remain anonymous.

When I first heard that they were releasing a movie based upon the game Dungeons & Dragons, my biggest fear was that I would be stuck behind someone shouting, "Hey!! The rules say you can't do that!!" (I played role-playing games for many years and the only thing that irritated me more than a player lacking sufficient imagination to utter such a phrase was a game master lacking sufficient imagination to agree with it.).

It sucks worse than the black hole at the center of our galaxy. (Please Note: I haven't seen "Battlefield Earth" yet.)

My advice: Watch Record of Lodos War, Dragonslayer, BeastMaster, or the Conan movies.

The 3 worst parts of the movie were, in order:


OTHER STATES OF BEING: 13 Short Abductions
by John DeChancie
Review by Ann Cecil

This is DeChancie's first short story collection. In the introduction, he talks about being primarily a novelist, who only recently has come to short fiction. It is a specialty that suits him, based on this collection. And the collection format suits him as well; the stories in the book benefit from being together. Several are stories I've read in other anthologies, where they tended to be odd bumps in the otherwise even flow of stories. This is because DeChancie's worldview is slightly skewed, as if he's approaching the world sideways from the normal view.

In this collection, you begin to see the world according to DeChancie, appreciate the subtleties and wry wit he brings to his fiction. And just as you notice the erudition, he slaps in a bit of burlesquerie, as if to mock both himself and the world.

It really works, in this collection. One of the stories originally appeared in the PARSEC fanzine (duly credited); while it's not the strongest story in the book, it gains layers of depth from its position here.

My favorite story is 'Spellchucker': a very different sort of story about a young would-be wizard's progress through the red tape of organized wizardry. Some of the stories are fantasy, some science-fiction; most of them conclude with a twist that brings you up short, makes you re-examine your assumptions.

And then there's the exception (to prove the rule?); 'Slow Dance for a Dead Princess' is gentle, moving, and one of the most insightful comments I've read on a very public tragedy.

So go buy this book, because it's interesting and entertaining and thought-provoking. Even when he misses (I didn't say every story was perfect; I still don't like 'Death and Transfiguration'), DeChancie incorporates ideas, and does it with style and a classy vocabulary.

And his introduction is worth the price of the book by itself.

The Dragons of Springplace
by Robert Reed
Review by Ann Cecil

This is Reed's first short collection. While he's made his reputation on novels, he appears regularly in the magazines. There are only 11 stories in this collection. so I assume they were chosen to illustrate a particular theme.

While I enjoyed the stories, I failed to detect the theme. Some of the stories carry a gentle pessimism, an ending twist that has a rueful feel; others end with an upbeat emphasis on the Human will to survive in spite of defeat.

Reed writes powerful, evocative, vivid characters, set in fascinating and exotic scenarios. Several are set in the giant alien spaceship that he explores further in the novel Marrow. Occasionally the stories get a little messagy, a bit too cliched, though 'Waging Good' carries you past the unashamed cliche with its depth of feeling.

Overall a worthwhile addition to story collections, highly recommended.

Man of Two Worlds -- My Life in Science Fiction and Comics
by Julius Schwartz with Brian Thomsen
Review by Shoshana Kaminsky

This memoir of Julius Schwartz' life was glowingly reviewed both in "Asimov's" and "Analog," so I decided to get it as a Chanukah present for my husband. As he has been otherwise occupied since then, I took it upon myself to read it first, in the hopes that I might be able to actually finish a book and submit a review before J.J. got to it.

Julius Schwartz has lived a remarkable life, in both the sf and comic book worlds. He recounts astonishing facts of his life, particularly when he worked as an agent to science fiction writers in the 30's and 40's. Some of he gems: he actually met Hugo Gernsbach! He sold Ray Bradbury's first short story when Bradbury was earning a meager livingselling papers in L.A. He and his pal Mort Weisinger founded the first known fanzine in 1932. He was in charge of the program for the very first World Con in New York in 1939. And then he landed in comics when the sf field started to dry up in the forties. As a comic book editor at DC Comics, he edited a huge range of comics, including sixteen years as senior editor on the Batman series and 16 years on Superman. In fact, the staff at Superman rewarded him for his longevity and influence in the field by devoting an entire issue of the comic book to his life and achievements on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Julie, as he is known to everyone is now 85 years old, but still stomps the con sf and comic book trail on a regular basis.

So here are my major beefs with this book: basically, the guy is just a little insufferable. Here is a man who is constantly taking credit for just about every major achievement in both fields. Example sentence: " I dare say, indirectly my success with the Justice League of America can be credited with not just saving DC [comics] but saving Marvel as well. (Nothing like patting one's self on the back, particularly when it is well deserved!)" Near the end of the book, he actually refers to himself as a living legend, with his tongue only slightly inserted into his cheek! Julie's generousness of spirit, along with his tendency to self-centeredness, is perfectly summarized in the riotously funny afterward by Harlan Ellison.

Another major gripe of mine is that this is a book which is entirely about Schwartz's career. You get the sense the man has practically no personal life. Schwartz has this tendency to refer to any woman he encountered in the field as "the very lovely" or "the quite pretty." This I am willing to write off in consideration of his age. However, his wife is only mentioned in passing, and his children (other than a daughter who comes up in passing) are never mentioned at all. He nevers speaks of his family life, of his life together with his wife, or even whether she is still living! If I were her, I would clobber him over the head with a handbag!

Despite these flaws, both in Schwartz' character and in his book, this memoir is well worth reading. It's amazing to read about a man who has been such a central part of the sf and comic book world for nearly 75 of his 85 years. And if you get a chance to hear him speak at a con, go for it!

PARSEC Commentary

Official PARSEC Commentary from your elected Commentator, Ann Cecil

To begin with, I want to thank those of you who voted for me for Commentator. Obviously you ignored my rival's last minute cleverly disguised pitch for your vote. And the contest was fair and square; Christina was NOT allowed to stuff the ballot box (yes, always devious, she brought 50 xeroxed ballets with her, voting against herself). Unlike the Federal Government, PARSEC has no complex scheme requiring extensive higher math; the one with the most votes wins. So I thank you all.

My plan is to use this space for general commentary, in the same conversational rambling style as my presidential column, except that there won't be the same need to come to a meeting-related point. That is not to say that they won't have a point, or that I won't, on occasion, write them more tightly (tautly? tensely? but never tersely).

PARSEC is meant to be a community of those who remain fascinated by science-fiction and fantasy, interested in the potentials and possibilities of Human Beings in our changing world. And in some cases, just plain fascinated by gadgets and How Things Work.

But, more than anything, it is a community, and a community requires both give and take. There are new things planned for this coming year, new opportunities for you to be amazed and entertained and stimulated. In return, we need your participation; not only attendance at meetings, but reviews or comments or ads or reactions, in writing, to help make SIGMA truly a Summary of the SFF Interest Group Monthly Activities.

So this month's commentary has a moral: a paragraph or two is not too much to write for your community.

And then submit it!

News Flash

Tim Esaias's story "Crash Site" was the #10 bestseller for the year at Alexandria Digital Literature. He also has an essay on Georgia O'Keefe in the Fall 2000 issue of Connecticut Review, entitled "On Knowing, Just Once, Whose Hand Had Fashioned the Sky." For some unfathomable reason it is listed as Fiction in the table of contents. Mary Soon Lee sold the story "Birthdays" to Kinships; the three word long story "On The Irritating Tendency..." to Tales of the Unanticipated; and the poem "Silicon Bird" to Talebones. Her Dark Regions Press anthology now has a name: Winter Shadows & Other Tales.

Con List

When is it?

What Con?

What's so special about . . . .

Which PARSEC members are going?

Trip Coordinator

January 12-14, 2001

Arisia '01, Boston, MA

GOH: Lois McMaster Bujold

Wendy Kosak?

January 19-21. 2001

Mystery God Confusion, Warren, MI

GOH: Sarah Zettel

Jim and Laurie Mann

February 16-18, 2001

Boskone 38, Framingham, MA

GOH: George R.R. Martin, Juanita Coulson

Jim and Laurie Mann, Mary Tabasko, Wendy Kosak?

February 23-25, 2001

Ad Astra 2001, Toronto ONT

GOH: Connie Willis, David Hartwell, Urban Tapestry

March 23-25, 2001

Lunacon 2001, New York, NY

GOH: Charles Sheffield, Nancy Kress

Wendy Kosak?

March 23-25, 2001

Millenicon, Kings Island, OH

GOH: Catherine Asaro, Tom Smith

Ann Cecil, Greg Armstrong, Mia Sherman

Mia Sherman

March 30 - April 1, 2001

FilkOntario, Mississaugh, ONT


May 25 - 28, 2001

Balticon, Baltimore, MD

Randy Hoffman's First Filk Concert! (and Hal Clement)

Randy Hoffman, Ann Cecil, Greg Armstrong, Mia Sherman

Mia Sherman

May 25-27, 2001

Anime North, Toronto ONT


May 25 - 27, 2001

Marcon, Columbus, OH

Gaming, Media, and Filk

July 13 -15, 2001

InConJunction, Indianapolis, IN

GOH: Xavier

Greg Armstrong, Mia Sherman, Xavier

July 20 - 22, 2001


It's Our Con!

Everyone should go!

August 30 - September 3, 2001

Millenium Philcon, Philadelphia, PA


Lots of Different People

October 26 - 28, 2001

Ohio Valley Filk Fest, Dublin, OH



Randy Hoffman is presenting his first Filk Concert at Balticon over Memorial Day Weekend (check the Con List in SIGMA or on-line for people going).

SIGMA Submissions

Submission for SIGMA can be emailed to: Either put the submission in the body of the message, or attach a TEXT ONLY document.

Submissions can also be mailed (snail mail) to:

Box 3681
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-3681


Don Cox
128 Rita Drive
Brownsville, PA 15417

they should be typed or in very clear handwriting.

Anthology available

The Pittsburgh Fairy Tale Anthology is now (finally) available, for only $6! It has suffered a name change; it is now called Six from PARSEC, The PARSEC Fantasy Anthology.

Copies are available from editor and publisher:

James Walton
430 Zara St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15210

You can also send checks to PARSEC [PO Box 3681, Pittsburgh, PA, 15230], and we will handle the exchange (of money for book).

The six authors and their tales featured in this anthology are:
Fruma Klass Cool Beans
Ann Cecil The Pittsburgh Town Musicians
Judith Friedl The Love-Talker
Kevin Hayes Rumpled Bedfellows
Nancy Hagen-Liddle Childhood Traditions
Diane Turnshek Extreme Geas

Next Meeting

NEXT MEETING: Jan. 13, 2001, 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM
LOCATION: Squirrel Hill Branch of Carnegie Library
PLEASE: We encourage people to bring a munchie or drink contribution ... pop, chips, cookies, etc.

TOPIC: 'Toy Robot Initiative' with Illah R. Nourbakhsh

"The Toy Robots Initiative aims to commercialize robotics technologies in education, art and the toy markets. In this talk, I will describe the robots behind the toy robots initiative and our successes and failures. I will also speak about the future role of robots in education and in ordinary human-interactive social situations, including the workplace, businessplace and the home." -Illah R. Nourbakhsh

PARSEC Tentative Meeting Schedule

February 2001
Time & Date : 10 February 2001
Discussion Topic : Hugo Nominating
Location : Squirrel Hill Branch of Carnegie Library

March 2001
Time & Date : 10 March 2001
Discussion Topic : 'Topics' for the Millenium Philcon
Location : Undecided

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: "Cap'n" John Cope

Treasurer: Greg Armstrong

Editor: Don Cox

Secretary: Tom Morrow

Commentator: Ann Cecil

Meetings: The second Saturday in each month.

Dues: $10 full, $2 supporting.

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