Issue 198 Itıs a huge, revolving cycle, you know. It happens just about every year. Time passes, life occurs, things happen and all of it brings us to this: exhaustion, discovery of things that were lost, and a feeling that there was something you meant to do, but just walked out of the house and forgot. This is the aftermath of Confluence. If you didnıt make it to Confluence this year, you missed what has been described as the best science fiction/fantasy convention in late July in Pittsburgh that we know of. And weıre the folks who put it on. And believe it or not, even though it just got over with, there has already been a lot of goings-on about it. Not just e-traffic‹postings, e-mails and such‹but even a committee meeting to dissect the goings-on of the con itself. I wasnıt able to be there, but I expect some of the things discussed werenıt only financial in nature, but also logistical. Things like: this worked, that didnıt; what can we do to make it better next year and what can we do to keep us unique. And the cycle goes on. With minor differences to be sure, but it does go on. The same sort of thing has also been going on with regard to Alpha‹the young writersı workshop. There has been a lot of traffic discussing what next year could be like and how to improve it. The participants seem to think the best way to improve it is to have it last longer. A difficult proposition at best. But the expectation is that it will go on next year in some way. A new tradition starting, a new cycle begins. Regarding PARSEC, things change and things stay the same. Among the new things, we continue to pursue non-profit status. Put on temporary hold because of the time and attention requirements of Confluence, we are gearing up to plunge ahead. Once we have this elusive (at this point) status, lots of things can be achieved. Things that will be able to positively impact just about everything PARSEC involves itself in. On a personal note, I continue to pursue meeting topics (Suggestions? Anybody? Anything? Something fun? Volunteers?). It makes it easier for the incoming president if he/she doesnıt have to worry about setting up meetings and arranging speakers or demonstrations or whatever for the first few months. Ann did it for me and I intend to do it for whoever replaces me. The cycle continues and I hate the pressure. And speaking of pressure, in November we have the election of officers to look forward to. (Did you like that smooth transition?) We all keep busy, busy, busy. Stepping away from the SF/F world and fandom for a moment, we are standing, temporally, at the edge of the seasonal precipice. Summer is almost over, kids are going to be going back to school, vacations have to be finished, shopping needs to be done, plans have to be made, things need to be accomplished. . . Holy Smokes! Donıt we ever get a break?! Of course the answer to that question is yes. Every year‹as a part of the ongoing cycle‹we get this break. Usually in August, or September, we get the annual PARSEC picnic. And it is a break well-deserved. Granted it still takes planning, preparation and execution, but of all the things we involve ourselves with, it probably takes the least. This is the time we can socialize without the pressure of getting to the panel on time. We can expect to cook, eat and clean up in our own good time and not worry about security staff peering over our shoulders, tapping their watches, all to make sure we vacate the space on time. This year, like last year, the picnic is going to be at Bellevue Memorial Park. Donıt get confused, it isnıt Bayne Park in Bellevue. Some people had a problem with that last year. Not only that, but the directions are going to be tricky this year. I know there are those who felt the directions were tricky last year, Iıll try to address that situation. Itıs probably worse this year because of all the construction. Basically, the two ways into Bellevue for those who donıt know the area are Route 65, a.k.a. Ohio River Blvd and I-279 North. Donıt confuse I-279 with the Parkway West, it is the Parkway North - to Cranberry. Detailed directions will appear later in the Sigma, or you can e-mail me or call. Weıll get you there. As for the picnic itself - as always PARSEC will provide the grill fodder. If everybody else provides salads, sides, desserts, and drinks, that should be good enough to get us through the day. Keep in mind we have a grill available as well as gas burners, electricity, a fireplace and water. All sorts of amusements are available, too - swimming pool, basketball, volleyball, and a few other things Iım sure Iıve forgotten. And to make things just a little more special this year, Randy has planned an open filk for the evening. He issued the challenge to anyone who wanted to participate to write a new song, and he would write three. So everybody come on down, bring your games, goodies and your brand new song and Iıll see you Saturday. Kevin Confluence Statistics Confluence 2002 is over, and it was a success by all key measures! Attendance went over 300 (unofficial estimate achieved by counting the unused badge holders is 310, but that may be a slight overestimate). We made enough to pay all the major debts (hotel, program book, t-shirts, con suite, Dorsai). There are some t-shirts left, in large sizes only (need to revise the ordering scheme again, fandom must be on a diet): XL, 2X, and 3X. The leftovers will be at the picnic, or send Ann email ( if you want to buy one: $10 for the XLs (I have 3 left), $12 for the XXL (2) or the XXXL (7). Volume 1 of the Parallax Second Tales (the fanzine reborn in a new chapbook format, to match Six From Parsec) premiered! and we actually sold 7 copies - amazing considering the competition. The Dealerıs room was sold out. The new jewelery dealer is terrific - some beautiful stuff there. Books, filk tapes, books, magazines, books, art, books; altogether a rewarding mix. Noreascon was selling memberships as well, and did better here than Westercon. Best of all: We have our first ever multi-year contract! So we will be back at the Sheraton Four-Points Airport on July 25-27 2003, and July 23-25 2004. Ann Barton Paul Levenson sold the story ³Sometimes We Lie² to the anthology Leaps Of Faith. Ken Chiacchia sold the story ³Tribute² to the Mystery edition of Oceans Of The Mind; and his story ³A Matter of Gravity² was reprinted in the anthology Wondrous Web Worlds 2. Mary Soon Lee sold ³Coming-of-Age² to Analog, her first sale there. Tim Esaiasıs story ³Ignis Fatuus² appeared in Strange Horizons. commentary Commentary by Ann Cecil Those who went to Confluence 2002 (held last weekend!) probably noticed the large group of young people attending. I call them a group because they pretty much stuck together. They were students (15 in all) who spent the previous week together at Alpha: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Writing Workshop for Young Writers. This is a new venture, thought up by that generator of enthusiasm and inspirational ideas, Diane Turnshek. Everybody else is talking about the ŒGraying of Fandom,ı writing articles and holding panels on the lack of young people attending conventions, writing, and getting published in the genre. Diane, never one to sit back and relax, decided to do something about it. So she conspired with a number of Parsecians, contacted local universities, and found a home for the Workshop at Robert Morris University, conveniently close to our Confluence hotel. Laurie Mann volunteered space on her server ( for a website, and Diane started recruiting. She found 15 students (she actually found more than that, but several couldnıt get needed funds, time, or permission to come). All of the students demonstrated talent and writing skills by submitting a short story to qualify, and showed desire to write Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror. In some cases, they were blurring the line and wanted to do all three! Diane recruited presenters, starting with our local literary lion, William Tenn (always start with the best, right?). She persuaded Lawrence C. Connolly, Timons Esasis, Bobby Nansel, Alan Irvine, Mike Arnzen, Wen Spencer, Ann Cecil, and Dr. Eric Davin to give talks on aspects of writing in the genre. And for a finale, YA favorite Tamora Pierce gave a wrap-up speech. The point of the workshop was to have the students come up with an idea for a short story, develop it, write the first draft, have it critiqued, and do a final draft for mailing out to a selected magazine or anthology at the end of the week. Eleven of the students actually accomplished this; four of the students completed stories but needed a little longer to get through to a final draft, and only one had trouble meeting the schedule. I was one of the presenters, official adult critiquers, and general helpers (I own a van). The whole experience was inspirational, in many ways. The field is NOT in such bad shape, based on this sample. The Alphans showed enormous promise, bright new ideas, and a great deal of energy. In addition, I found myself thinking, Œif they can do this, in this short an amount of time, maybe I should try harder to get my stories written and out there.' Iıve also heard some people suggest that itıs a bad idea to couple Alpha and Confluence. Alpha was designed to run the week before Confluence, and part of the fee the students paid covered a Confluence membership. (In case you wonder, this was not a money-making operation; the fee charged covered dorm space and food; all presenters worked for a nominal amount, which many turned back). Those of us who ran Alpha felt that the exposure to Confluence, with the chance to meet more of the genre community, to practice networking and see how this genre uniquely depends on feedback between fans and editors and authors, was a key part of the workshop. And for those of us running and attending Confluence: this was an opportunity to loosen up the programming, to attract new blood and fresh ideas. To mix some brighter colors in with the gray hairs! Itıs time we start pulling in new people onto the concom - no problem with those who have served year after year, but things do change. This was the 14th time around, and some of us are operating more out of habit than enthusiasm. Weıve already had one concom member shift her duties (Lara Van Winkle is going to college - does this mean you plan to become a real grown-up, Lara?) Confluence is still great fun, a great chance to see all the books that our local stores never carry, to see neat jewelry (I finally found the earrings Iıve been searching for for years!), and prints and other fannish stuff, to hear authors and editors talk about whatıs really going on in their heads and in the genre, to taste strange new beers (courtesy of JJ)(rumor has it the wine people are demanding equal tasting next year), and to spend a whole weekend with a group of people that donıt think your tastes are warped and your dress is odd. (Can you tell I got to go to more programming this year?) Weıre going to be in the same hotel (the hard-to-find Sheraton at the airport) for the next two years! We have contracts and dates (see elsewhere). So think about maybe getting a little more involved - you could influence some of the programming, or just hear about all the inside jokes. Or buy your t-shirt early, and make sure itıs in your size! by Ann Cecil The Turk by Tom Standage Walker & Company, 435 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014, 2002, hardback, 272 pages, ISBN 0-8027-1391-2, US $24.00, CAN $37.95 This is non-fiction, but it has everything needed to appeal to the readers of SF/F, to wit: androids, technology, the question of Man versus Machine, gaming, magic, enough legends and mysteries to count as Alternate History, Napoleon Bonaparte, Edgar Allen Poe, P.T. Barnum, Catherine the Great, Beethoven, Philidor, Handel, fraud, a detective story, patent infringement, Deep Blue, Deeper Blue, Benjamin Franklin and Charles Babbage with his revolutionary mechanical computers. If it were fiction, it would be a steampunk masterpiece. The author, who also wrote The Victorian Internet, subtitles this book ³The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine², and that's a pretty fair description of the subject. What the subtitle doesn't tell you is how fascinating the tale will be. There's the root idea for a new SF story every couple of pages, because this book explores the interesting world of 18th and 19th century automata (³the forgotten ancestors of almost all modern technology²), where the technology of the Industrial Revolution got its initial tryout as an amusement for the Courts of Europe, and as stage show phenomena for the rest of the world. Standage explains that as clockwork mechanisms became ever more complex and imaginative, jewelers and clock-makers began to invent the equivalent (in their specialties) of Faberge eggs. They created mechanical eagles, mechanical flies, mechanical harpsichord players, writers, draftsmen, and a whole range of mechanical pictures that are the video players of the time before electricity. And one of these artisans, Jacques de Vaucanson, set out to build a complete artificial man. All of these toys were only for the very rich, of course, who gave them as State gifts or used them as show-things at important parties. It was one of these shows, put on by a visiting Frenchman for the court of Austrian Empress Marie Therese in 1769, that begins the course of events this book is about. The Empress invited an official of the Court, Wolfgang von Kempelen, who was interested in science and technology, to explain to her how the Frenchman's various illusions and machines probably worked. When the show was over he said he thought he could do better, and the Empress told him to prove it. Several months later, von Kempelen produced his answer to the challenge: the Automaton Chess-Player that would fascinate the world for almost a hundred years, spawning dozens of books in its own time, all attempting to penetrate the mystery the ³Turk² generated: how did this machine play chess? The Turk not only played chess, it played it quite well, beating almost everybody almost all of the time. The Turk itself consisted of a large cabinet containing the machinery, with drawers containing the chess pieces and other necessities for the performance, a chess board on top, and sitting on a chair at the back of the cabinet was the upper body of a figure draped in Oriental garb, wearing a turban, holding a long Turkish pipe in one hand and playing the game with the other. The cabinet was opened front and back at the beginning of the performance to prove the absence of a hidden human, and since it rolled around on casters it was clear that no-one could enter from a trap door after the doors were resealed. Suffice it to say that this book is a quick read, a real page-turner, and much of the fascination is not with the Turk itself, but with its impact on popular imagination. The questions it raised spurred inventors - of everything from power looms to difference engines - to push the envelope of technology. The analysis of it caused Poe to begin the invention of the modern detective novel. The road show inspired P.T. Barnum. And, what is more, it didn't let Napoleon cheat. review by Timons Esaias last meeting July 13 PARSEC Meeting convened at approximately 2:30 pm with 21 members/friends in attendance. Henry donated two DVDıs to the raffle table: Innocent Blood and They Came from Beyond Space. Bill Covert signed up to be a new member and, as seems to be the tradition, won the raffle and chose the DVD Innocent Blood. Kevin Hayes solicited staff for the PARSEC table in the Confluence dealerıs room. Bill Covert, Barb Carlson, Dan Block, Dan Radakovich and Beth Bowles volunteered. There was a random comment on the fact that itıs easier to get SF in to the movie theater now. Harrison Ford is 60 today and there was a bit of discussion about his sex appeal. Kevin Hayes mentioned the after meeting cinema gathering and Kevin Geiselman mentioned the movie Project Valkyrie showing at the Rex on the Southside at 8PM Tim is reading poetry at Hemingways on Tuesday, July 16th starting at 8:30 pm free of charge. Pro Arts information -does not consider PARSEC as being associated with the arts so they will not be helping us with our non-profit status. But we will still pursue non-profit status. The subject of the meeting today is: Other things that club members do or that go on in the local area. Nancy started out the program subject by talking about the Fort Weyr group which is based on Anne McCaffreyıs Pern series. The club started in Indiana about 20 years ago but has since moved locally. Nancy showed off Drudge, a stuffed dragonet which is able to extend and flap its wings, and is a creation of a club member. There is a gathering of the members in the spring time called Fort Fest which is held at Raccoon Creek State Park, usually on the second weekend of June. Lara and Nancy have been running Fort Fest for 11 years. Sixty people attended Fort Fest this year. The highest attendance at a Fort Fest was 120 people. Members create a persona that would live on Pern and the persona may ride a dragon. In addition there are crafts or holds that the of which the personas may be members. The groups main purpose is to write stories involving the personas. This is not the only Pern club in the nation. There are two in Pittsburgh, the other club is High Reaches. Many Pern clubs are online with roleplaying and interaction occurring online. A very few of the clubs have regular printed Œzines. After 20 years, the members of Fort Weyr still wish to keep the Harper Beat in paper format. The members are constantly in touch both online and with a printed newsletter known as the Between ŒZine. A one year membership ($15.00) pays for one year of the Harper Beat (4), the Between ŒZines and the Fort Fact Pack. Harper Beat publishes stories in a progressive timeline. Fort Folio is another Fort Weyr Œzine that publishes stories that donıt fit in the Harper Beat timeline. Anyone who is a member can write or just enjoy the stories or participate in online chat/e-mail groups, as desired. People who wish to have a gold dragon or high craft rank need to participate in writing stories or contributing to the club in other ways. Nancy talked about the process of Impressing at Fort Fest. After the eggs are ³laid², the dragons mysteriously mark them with numbers and the ³candidates² put on big white robes when the humming begins. The candidate breaks the egg and gets an original baby dragon sculpture by Nancy Janda. Candidates can choose any dragon color except for gold (which requires working for the club and there are a limited amount of gold dragons can be in a club (5)). Only male characters can impress/ride bronze dragons and only female characters can impress/ride golds. Green, Blue, and Brown dragons can have either male or female riders. One character started as an apprentice beast herder and then impressed a bronze dragon and went on to become weyrleader. In addition, Wendy, who was the creator of that character, improved her writing skills in the club and is now a published author. Local members have get-togethers, for example, there will be a crab feast in the MD, DC area, there has been a Winter Gather in MA and a Fall Gather is held sometimes in the Ohio and Michigan areas. The following were questions from some of the members in attendance: Q: What is it about Pern that interests you? Nancy: I like dragons. Dragons are childlike in their outlook of the world. High Reaches has about 35 members and may suit some people better than a larger club. As requested by Anne McCaffrey, role playing is restricted to members only and not permitted in public. Q: What is the ratio of men to women? Nancy: About 30% men and 70% women. The club has 170 members spread out in the country and at peak it had 225 members. A member in Ohio edits the Harper Beat and a member in Michigan edits the Between Zine. Pern Clubs have typically more females than males. Dan Bloch made the next presentation on the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers, which are best described as a bunch of drinkers with a running problem. A Hash is a run that is not usually a race which also involves drinking beer. The participants usually drink beer before the run and have beer stops during the run with food and beer afterward. The group typically marks the trail for the Hash with flour (which was once mistaken for anthrax). When a group is lost and off the trail and one of them finds the trail then the finder yells, ³ ON ON² to let other lost members know where the trail is. In addition, there is singing and a tradition of chugging or dumping beer over their heads. Hashes are remembered by the creation of t-shirts featuring art done by local artists. There are similar groups internationally. The history of the Hash, is that it was started by a group of British in Malaysia in 1938. The tradition then took a break and reformed after WWII. The Pittsburgh group started about 21 years ago. Typically, there are about 60 people on the local mailing list with 25 attending an average ³hash². There are three to four thousand members world wide in various local groups. The gender ratio is 60% male and 40% female. A typical Hash distance is four to five miles. The international Hash House Harriers gathering, called InterHash, is held on even numbered years. In odd numbered years, one is held in the Americas and 1999ıs was in Pittsburgh. Dan showed us a beautiful Malaysian shirt for one such InterHash and a bid shirt for the 2000 InterHash from Malaysia. Hashes also hand out tags. Usually participants will wear all the tags that they own at a Hash. All members have ³Hash names.² A Hash name is often insulting and frequently involves words one canıt tell oneıs mother. Danıs is Thunder Chicken. People are addressed by their Hash name at the Hashes and donıt necessarily know anyone elseıs mundane names. Dan is also a member of the Erie Hash House Harriers. Members are not particuar about the beer being served. The Melbourne, Australia run was three to four miles with 20 beer stops. It was called the Chappel (slang for vomit) Run. There is also a tradition of one Red Dress run. In this event, all participants run in a red dress (accessories optional) regardless of gender. In closing, Dan sang a Hash song. The fourth member to present was Kevin Geiselman on The Klingon Assault Group. Kevin passed around picture of him in costume and with his Big Ugly Gun. One central activity of members is to go to conventions. There is a Star Trek convention this year on October 20, which is run by Slanted Fedora. The club does charity work like Jail and Bails, motivational seminars, and the Bayer Haunted Trail in October. Other events that members have participated in include weddings, volunteering at the Science Center, activities at Pittsburghıs First Night, and singing Christmas Carols in the Pittsburgh T stations. A question came up about Klingon Light Opera. There is an Opera but it cannot be produced because of copyright issues. Kevin also talked about the Klingon Language. Klingon language was written for the third movie. There is an organization called the Klingon Language Institute and is made up of linguists. More people speak Klingon than speak Esperanto. Hamlet, Much Ado about Nothing, and Gilgamesh have been translated into Klingon. There are Klingon Fanzines, one of which is called Agonizer. The gender ratio is about 60% male to 40% female. The local Klingon Assault Groupıs calendar of events includes the convention in October and the premiere of the new Star Trek movie: Nemesis on December 13th. Kevin is talking to Loews at the Waterfront about the Klingons going there. July 19th - 21st a camping event based on the Final Reflection by John Ford the only Klingon novel called Year Games is held. It has some athletic events and is a family camping event. Q: Do Klingons play games? Kevin: Yes, but not in an organized fashion. Q Are there any children learning Klingon as a first language? Kevin: Yes a few. Qepıaı, which is a five day Klingon language immersian gathering was held last year in Belgium where a lot of the time Klingon was the language of choice to discuss things instead of English. The Klingon language is not based on a human language. Kevin closed by singing ³Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes" in Klingon. Our last presenter was Nils Hammer. He has been a member of Pittsburgh Savoyards since 1975. The Savoyards perform Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas. Nils believes that the operettas contain ³some of the best music ever and culture.² Sullivan was called the Mozart of England and Gilbert wrote satire. Nils mentioned there are lots of thing for volunteers to do and include set painting, and concessions. Performances typically have 25 people on stage with 25 people in the orchestra pit and 6 backstage volunteers. In addition, there are social activities. The next show is Pirates of Penzance to be performed at the Carnegie Library in Carnegie in the fall. Nils favorite show is Rudigore from which he sang a piece. by Heidi Pilewski The rules were simple: start at the entrance to the conference center, need to find the registration desk, register for the conference, perform volunteer duties as required, then report at a prescribed time in a conference hall to give a talk. Everyone who attended Confluence did the first two parts, many of them did some or even all of the others. But if you are a robot, with the equivalent intelligence of a cockroach (admittedly, a very *smart* cockroach), things become more difficult. So Grace, who went to Edmonton, Alberta, to meet the challenge, had a lot of coaching. Reid Simmons, of Carnegie Mellon University, headed a team made up of members of Carnegie Mellon, Swarthmore, and Northwestern universities, as well as Metrica Inc.ıs TRACELabs and the Naval Research Laboratory. The team programmed Grace to work with the sensors she had as well as adding new ones; in Edmonton Grace had a laser measuring system, sonar, bump sensors, an altimeter, a microphone, and two vision systems. State of the art programming included software for speech generation and recognition, visual pattern recognition (for reading signs), line detection (lines of people, not drawn lines), and navigation. Thatıs just the start, all of it had to be modified to do more subtle things like move with the people in line as it shifts forward or backward, or move the mouth on her animated face as she talks. There were problems; the elevator that the robot had to use to get from registration to the conference room was glass: the laser measurement system she uses to navigate canıt see glass walls. Thank heavens for butcher paper and duct tape. Then there is the co-ordination of teams from all over the country, some with no access to the robot. We ended up putting up a web-cam so that the Metrica folks could watch the byclops pan-tilt unit as they commanded it from afar. In the end, there were some minor mistakes: Grace cut into the registration line when she misjudged the distance between two people and thought sheıd found the end of the line. Reid had to ask the conference center to turn off a fountain because there was too much noise for the speech recognition to work. But Grace completed all of the tasks she tried; she didnıt try to do the volunteering part but did register and give a talk. Some of you may have seen some of the press coverage about Grace and her trip to Edmonton, but now you have the inside story. by Greg Armstrong NEXT MEETING: August 10, 2002 12:30 PM to 4:45 PM LOCATION: Bellevue Park PLEASE: We encourage people to bring a munchie or drink contribution ... pop, chips, cookies, etc. TOPIC: PARSEC Picnic at Bellevue Park From the east and south: go to the McKees Rocks Bridge on Rte 65 (Ohio River Blvd). At the light turn right, up Termon Ave. Staying in the left lane, go up the hill to the light. This is a five way intersection, with a hard left, an easy left, an easy right and a hard right. Take the easy left, up California Ave. Proceed to the next light, again staying in the left lane. Turn left, staying on California. Follow this into Bellevue, the street will magically turn into Lincoln Ave. At the third light ( there will be one single, then a set of two lights in tandem, then the third light ‹ at that intersection there is a Mellon Bank on the left and Classic Chevrolet katty-cornered on the right) Turn right onto Balph Ave, proceed on Balph, through a light and a stop sign. Follow this road about a half to three-quarters of a mile (it might be longer, I havenıt measured it) Bellevue Memorial Park is on the right hand side. The entrance is just beyond tennis courts. From the far north (and for those who prefer): Probably the best approach is from I-279. Exit at the Bellevue/Westview exit. Turn left (it makes no difference if you are coming from the North or from the South ‹ you will still turn left) follow this road into Bellevue. After passing Northgate High School on the left (itıs up a hill where you probably wonıt see it, but you will see the sign) the road makes a sharp bend to the left, after taking this bend, take the third street to the left ‹ Orchard. (the first is North, second is Means, third is Orchard) follow Orchard to the third stop sign, turn left onto N. Balph Ave. Proceed about a half to three-quarters of a mile (or more), the park will be on the right, just past the tennis courts.