The Official Newsletter of PARSEC


March 2001, Issue 182

Kevin's Comments

By Kevin Hayes

Ordinarily, I would write my comments starting from a more abstract (read unfocused) idea and hopefully close in on a single thread of thought. This would allow me to eventually wend my way through seemingly unrelated concepts to arrive at a look at the subject of our upcoming meeting. This time I'm going to do it a little different.

At our meeting this month, we have been asked to brainstorm and come up with discussion panel topics for WorldCon. And I, in my naivete, think that's pretty cool. I realize some of the folks in charge to WorldCon programming (Mil Phil, Millennium PhilCon, whatever you want to call it) are members of PARSEC, but that doesn't mean they would have to rely on us -- their home-town fans -- for this creative input.

I happen to think there is quite a bit of prestige associated with this. It says a lot for the creativity and thoughtfulness of us as a group. I know from previous discussions that other cons have copied, borrowed, used, and otherwise commandeered some of the things we've done at Confluence, from having the names of the guests on the backs of the T-shirts to putting notable S/F figures on trial (and by the way, are we putting someone on trial this year?). I'm also equally sure we have adapted and adopted ideas from other cons as well.

We have had some wonderfully stimulating presentations at Confluence. I think last year's smut panel -- oops, I mean, "How to Write an S/F Love Scene" -- stands as one of the best. And I know we can come up with new original ideas for panel topics for this international venue.

I know we've had literally hundreds of ideas for con discussion topics just in the last few years I've been associated with PARSEC. I expect there are still other multitudes of ideas languishing in past issues of Sigma, possibly forgotten and perhaps thankfully so. But there is a certain timelessness associated with science fiction and fantasy. Even though we have all chuckled in retrospect at atomic powered rockets and Zsa Zsa ruling the women of Venus, it was all wonderful weirdness at the time. Who knows, maybe in ten or twenty years, we will all smile at the naive awe associated with nano-machinery and genetic engineering. So if anyone can find old issues of Sigma with the discussion panel ideas in them, bring them in and maybe we can cull some good stuff to send to Philadelphia.

Another thing I keep coming back to in my mind, though, is the influence S/F has had on everyday life. And in turn, the influence we, as fans, have had on S/F. Most of the writers in the genre started as fans with ideas for what could happen and what was important. I have read too many times, in some forward to a story, or afterward to a book, about how the writer was engaged in conversation with someone at a convention in the con-suite, or otherwise, and was asked a question that started him, or her down some logic-road that resulted in the epic " hold in your hands..."

The way I see it is we have been asked if we would like to contribute our two cents toward deciding the tone of the first major Con of the new millennium. And considering the influence of S/F on everyday life, how far could this be carried? I know I'm being a tad grandiose, but let's face it, it isn't every day people like us are asked what we think is going to be important and influential for the next thousand years.

Oh, okay, maybe that's overstating the situation, but even mad scientists had to start somewhere.

So everyone, grab your concerns, notions, and thoughts about S/F & F today and bring them to the meeting. See you Saturday.


On the Mark will hold a concert in Pittsburgh on Saturday, March 17 starting at 9pm in the Frick Fine Arts auditorium (near Carnegie Library in Oakland). We'll do a mix of contemporary and traditional folk music, filk, and renaissance music, and as a nod to the date, we'll even do a little Irish stuff. :-) We're requesting a small donation at the door.

We'll be recording this concert in hopes of jump-starting a new CD, so naturally we'd love to have a house full of happy listeners. Please help spread the word.

Last Meeting

by Ann Cecil

PARSEC met on February 10th, 2001 at the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Free Library. Kevin Hayes called the meeting to order at 2:30 pm.

Several announcements were made:

Mia Sherman won the raffle and took a book.

Ken Morrison joined us for his first meeting and was introduced.

Sasha Riley discussed her planned online zine again. Her parents have strongly objected to the name: Consumer Punks and Cyber Sluts, so she is asked for suggestions for an alternate title. There was some discussion on the subject, with the following definitions (she is using) given: Consumer Punks = people who buy identities. Cyber Sluts = people who buy everything electronic, keep upgrading no matter what, and attempt to hide from reality within electronics/computers/the 'net.

Sasha also asked for material; submissions of ANY sort are quite welcome. Send to One reason for starting the newsletter is that her school is very conservative. A story will not be accepted by KO unless, if it is written by a guy, it is an adventure, or if it is by a woman, it is a romance. Also, romances that are between anything other than a man and a woman are not accepted.

Jim Mann announced that Phil Klass (aka William Tenn) will be autographing his new anthology, Immodest Proposals, at Boskone (which was the week after the meeting). It costs $29. Jim Mann offered to get autographed copies for any PARSEC members, and a list was passed around for people to sign up.

Ann Cecil announced that displays the cover and a selection from Alien Taste, Wendy Kosak's first novel sale, coming in July.

Jim Mann and Randy Hoffman then did a presentation on Hugo Nominations.

Jim started by stressing: don't feel that you can't nominate if you haven't read a lot of stuff. If you read something you like, nominate it. The discussion was free-form: Jim talked about a category, suggested some entries he'd pick, then allowed others to add their choices. Jim had prepared a handout listing his choices; Ann Cecil also brought copies of the current Locus list of Recommended Reading for 2000.

Best Novel:

Short Stories:

Best Dramatic Presentation:

Best Professional Editor:
[Good editors from book lines are also eligible in addition to mag. editors, etc.] HOGU RETRO HUGOS
Best Novel 1950-1951
Novella Novelette Short story Best Dram. Pres. 1950-1951

The meeting ended at 4:20 pm after a disussion of 1925 and 1900 SF/F lit, if World Con would do 75, and 100 year Retro Hugos.

News Flash

Diane Turnshek sold a Vanadium haiku to SciFiStory's Periodic Table of Haiku (see

Mary Soon Lee's story "Pause/Time" made the LOCUS Recommended Reading List for 2000, and her story "Insight" appeared in SPACE & TIME #93. She resold her poem "Every Other Day of the Year" and sold her new poem "Insignificant Others" to the Anamnesis Press anthology 2001: A Science Fiction Poetry Anthology.

Tim Esaias sold a haiku to SciFiStory, two poems to FANTASY COMMENTATOR, and resold three poems to the Anamnesis Press Anthology. His poem "On Balance" appeared in the March 2001 Asimov's.

Due to the evaporation of MTAC (the current host of the Sigma address) the submission address for Sigma must change. The new address is:

Worldwright member, and former Confluence guest, Ken Chiacchia has a story in the March issue of the online magazine The Martian Wave. Check it out at

PARSEC Commentary

Official PARSEC Commentary from your elected Commentator, Ann Cecil

Estimation is a science, a branch of statistics, but it is also an inherent technique that every human uses daily. Some of us use it better than others; in parking cars, for instance. There are those who make precise estimates in their heads for the location of the curb, and those who just find it by bumping their tires against it. Both methods work, though in the long run the tire-bumping method leads to tired tires that need replacement sooner.

We understand estimation well enough to teach robots to use it, both in avoiding moving targets and in performing simple tasks. The question that occurred to me was, would we be able to apply estimation to a truly alien being, the hypothetical Bug Eyed Monster? And is estimation so universal, so required for success in life, that the BEM would be using it too?

I think the answer is a qualified yes. I'm not sure the BEM would use estimates as thoroughly as we do. An alien might have other systems - built in sonar, an echolocation system - that would mean finding curbs is trivial and exact. What kind of odd confusions and miscommunication might that lead to? It's fun to speculate.

These thoughts were brought on by 1) a discussion of C.J.Cherryh's latest, PRECURSOR; Cherryh is one of the few authors who tries to play with these kinds of speculation; and 2) the need to estimate how long the new play will take. Last Friday night we had a 'talk-through' at my house, to get some data for estimating whether it's too long, too short, or what.

Turns out (no surprise) that it is a little short on dialogue, but might be long on songs. This is the play with the 'book' based on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, using the music from The Sound of Music. We have one terrific song, written by Barb Carlson and Randy Hoffman, and a number of ones that I think you'll really enjoy.

We're putting on finishing touches, with a rehearsal and more casting, at my house on the 16th, starting around 7:30pm. We need some volunteers who would like to do non-speaking parts, as fish, whales, and rocks, as well as some minor speaking parts on the whaler in the first scene.

So if you think you'd like to enlarge your part in the next Confluence, come join us on Friday night (the 16th). Call 344-0456 for directions, if you don't still have your December SIGMA.


Probability Moon
by Nancy Kress
Review by Ann Cecil

This is the best yet from Nancy Kress - captivating people and aliens entangled in a plot that revolves around hard-core physics: strong forces and quantum mechanics. I've read books before that used some of this stuff, but Kress makes me want to go find a textbook and read more about it, she makes it sound so interesting!

The key concept that drives the book is the perception of reality; what if there were a way for people (read sentient beings) to genuinely share reality? If a thing is true, everyone 'sense' that truth; there can be no liars, no deceptions, no deviations. What would it be like to live in such a society?

Kress has a team of Human scientists come to study the world where Shared Reality is a fact. They include David Allen, a young, ambitious, clueless intern with an influential father, who is under the mistaken impression that he's gotten his position on his own merits. The rest of the team is a female xenobiologist, a male geologist, a mathematician, and a military physicist.

The military has another agenda, however; Humans are at war, and this planet has a strange moon that our side hopes to use in the larger conflict. The military has not changed; they are reluctant to tell the scientists what they are up to, and have no plans to tell the local population anything.

The locals are represented by Enli, a native who has the equivalent of deafness; she suffers from headaches, and does not share reality as fully as a normal person. We also meet a local wily trader, on the lookout for ways to increase his own wealth (sharing reality does not mean becoming some kind of saints).

The sweep of plot, with the Humans and aliens on a crash course that could easily lead to disaster, and does bring about tragic consequences, is compelling, complex, and beyond reducing to a few lines in a short review. The revelations, along with the action, were fascinating, and intriguing. I have never seen another book or story with quite this spin.

This one is highly recommended, an excellent read, and ought by rights to be a Nebula and Hugo contender.

Con List

March 23-25: Lunacon, New York, NY, with Charles Sheffield. PARSEC attendees: Wendy Kosak (possible)

March 23-25: Millenicon, Kings Island OH with Catherine Asaro.

March 30-April 1: FilkOntario, Mississauga ONT. attendee: Randy Hoffman, Ben Bachman

March 30-April 1: I-Con, Long Island NY, GOH: Harlan Ellison, Tim Zahn, Harry Turtledove, Sir Arthur Clarke by video

April 6-8: Contraption, Detroit MI with Catlin Kiernan and Poppy Z. Brite.

April 20-22: Eeriecon, Niagara Falls NY GOH: Robert J. Sawyer.

May 25-28: Baltcon, Baltimore, MD, GOH:Hal Clement, with Randy Hoffman's first ever filk concert

May 25-28: Marcon, Columbus, OH, GOH: Robert Jordan, James Hogan

Future Cons of interest: Xavier the Robot will be at InConJunction in July; CONFLUENCE 2001 will be July 20-22; WorldCon will be in Philadelphia over Labor Day.

Check the PARSEC Convention list at: for more information about these and other conventions!

Hotel Reservation Information for the Millennium Philcon

Hotel reservations are going to open on March 1. You must mention Worldcon #59, Millennium Philcon, to get the discount rate. IF YOU ARE BOOKING IN THE MARRIOTT MAKE SURE WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR RESERVATION THAT YOU INDICATE IF YOU WANT A PARTY OR QUIET ROOM. Inquire in advance about rollaways and cribs. There should be a field in the reservations form for comments, you want to put this information there. All the other hotels are quiet only. Hotel information will be available at the web site,, on or about March 1, 2001. Questions can be directed to

1. Marriott Philadelphia, 1201 Market St., Philadelphia 19107; (215) 625-2900, (800) 228-9290, (215) 625-6000. On-line reservation codes (Go to hotel's URL to make on-line reservations.): WSFWSFA (S/ D), WSFWSFB (T), WSFWSFC (Q). Room Rates (plus 14% tax): Single occupancy $135; Double $145, T/ Queen $160, Rollaways $20. Kids under 18 free.

2. Wyndham Franklin Plaza, 17th & Race Sts., Philadelphia 19103; (215) 448-2000, (215) 448-2864. Room Rates (plus 14% tax): S $99; D $109, T $119; Q $129

3. Courtyard by Marriott, 21 N. Juniper St, Philadelphia 19107; (215) 496-3200, (800) 321- 2211, (215) 496-3696. Room Rates (plus 14% tax): S $125; D $135, T/ Q $145, Rollaways $20. Kids under 18 free.

4. Hawthorn Suites, 1100 Vine St., Philadelphia 19107; (215) 829-8300, (800) 527-1133, (215) 829-8014. Room Rates (plus 14% tax): S/ D/ T/ Q $124

5. Hilton Garden Inn, 1100 Arch St., Philadelphia 19107; (215) 923-0100, (800) 445-8667, (215) 925-0800. On-line reservation code: WSF004 (Go to hotel's URL to make on-line reservations.). Room Rates (plus 14% tax): S/ D/ T/ Q $124, Jr. Suite $134, Rollaways $20. Kids under 18 free.

6. Clarion Suites, 1010 Race St., Philadelphia 19107; (215) 922-1730, (215) 922-6258. Room Rates (plus 14% tax): S $122; D $129, Rollaways free. Kids under 18 free.

7. Loews Philadelphia, 1200 Market Street, Philadelphia 19107; (215) 627-1200, (800) 695-8284, (215) 564-1985. Room Rates (plus 14% tax): S $135; D $145, T/ Q $160, No rollaways.

8. Hampton Inn, 1300 Race St., Philadelphia 19107; (215) 238-1046, (215) 922-5439. Room Rates (plus 14% tax): S $119; D $129, Rollaways free. Kids under 18 free.

Parking: All prices are per night and are subject to change. It should be noted that some of these are not hotel lots, but nearby public lots.
Marriott: $21.60,.......................Wyndham: $22,
Courtyard: $24,.........................Hawthorn: $15,
Hilton: $18,...............................Clarion: $12,
Loews: $24.

The MilPhil special discount rate covers the following dates:

Information for Wyndham and Hampton is not available at this time.

Next Meeting

NEXT MEETING: Mar. 10, 2001, 12:30 PM to 4:45 PM
LOCATION: Squirrel Hill Branch of Carnegie Library
PLEASE: We encourage people to bring a munchie or drink contribution ... pop, chips, cookies, etc.

TOPIC: TOPICS for Worldcon

PARSEC Tentative Meeting Schedule

April 2001
Time & Date : 14 April 2001
Discussion Topic : Phil Klass on 'Aspects of Asimov'
Location : Squirrel Hill Library

May 2001
Time & Date : 12 May 2001
Discussion Topic : Fantastic Art in Pittsburgh
Location : Squirrel Hill Library

SFR Challenge

The 2001 SFR (Science Fiction Romance) Challenge sponsored by the Young Writers: Speculative Fiction Forum is for under-21 writers only, max word count 2500, deadline: postmarked by Wednesday, March 7, 2001, email or snail mail submissions, no entry fee, no rights sought. SFR author/editor Emily Alward will judge. 1st, 2nd, 3rd place prizes are copies of the book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction by Cory Doctorow and Karl Schroeder.

Prizewinners will be eligible to join SFWA in the junior membership category. Please see complete rules at:

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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