Challenger - Return Home

 A Science Fiction Fanzine 

 Winter 2003


EPISTLES I

Joy V. Smith
Lakeland Florida

     Beautiful cover. I love the details. Is that a robot mask on the jester stick? The back cover is intriguing. Are those Lafferty characters? What a great tribute issue to R.A. Lafferty - a must have for collectors, I think.

     Dany Frolich did indeed add Lafferty characters to his cover for At the Sleepy Sailor. You can see Roadstrum and his cro-magnon mechanic, the Ktistec Machine, the “cross between Harpo Marx and Albert the Alligator” from Arrive at Easterwine, the mermaid from The Devil is Dead, some of the 900 grandmothers from the story of that name, Thomas More from Past Master, Snuffles from “Snuffles” … not to mention Ray and Okla Hannali at the bar.

     Fascinating article by Alan White on how he created the Challenger 15 cover ... probably 20 layers at any one time and six hours to create. Wow! Good article by Gregory Benford on Stephen Hawking...

      Excellent article by Richard Dengrove: “The Flying Saucer's 18th Century Precursors” - fascinating. What a lot of research! You always have a great selection of articles, but I thought this was the most interesting.

     I loved Mike Resnick's museum selection. There are several I really want to visit. I've never had the urge to visit the Salvador Dali museum, however, even though it's not too far, and I see the billboards for it all the time.

     The National Gallery has my favorite painting by the artist, his beautiful and moving Last Supper. But they used to exhibit it in the gift shop! When I walked in I exclaimed, “Hello, Dali!” HAHAHA

     I enjoyed “In Touch with Spirits” by Terry Jeeves. That was fun. Re: “Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity”. Can't they change that?! These people are guilty but insane. This has irked me for years. Btw, look at amazon.com for all the books using that title.

       Great selection of zines in “The Zine Dump”. Where do you find the time to read and review all these? Btw, I saw that The Proper Boskonian is no more. Pity. There is always so much interesting info in the LOCs. Challenger is so educational!


Benjamin Jones
Pawtucket RI

The salute to R.A. Lafferty was beautiful. Good old Laff: may he rest in peace, but not too much peace to giggle at us.

His “Day After the World Ended” is still timely. Does that make it true? Debatable. It’s important to remember that there are two kinds of arguers in the world: those who argue because they know they’re right, and those who argue because they like to argue. Lafferty was both, of course.

With all due respect to Fred Chappell, I would favor Annals of Klepsis, one of the man’s last novels, as his best. It’s weird and difficult, the Finnegans Wake of space operas. But that’s part of the fun.

The article on changes in the insanity defense had nothing to do with science fiction, and for that I appreciated it. I have to have compassion for any lawyer whose client threatens his own home with nuclear destruction, then refuses to admit that he was irrational.

As to the cover, well … I don’t know how she’s standing up with that humongous headpiece. Let’s just say that’s one of the impressive things about her.


Robert Kennedy
Camarillo, CA

Thanks for #16. Fine front and back covers as usual.

Dedicating this issue to R. A. Lafferty was a great idea. To have lost both Lafferty and Poul Anderson is terrible.

“In Touch With Spirits” by Terry Jeeves was much enjoyed and gave more proof that he deserves a Hugo nomination for Best Fan Writer.
‘Tolkien in the Modern Age of Publishing” by Joseph Major was up to his usual quality and continuing evidence that he deserves more Hugo nominations and the Hugo itself.

Your continuing coverage of criminal cases was much appreciated as was your explaining of M’Naughten.

In view of some of the movie comments, here are mine: A.I.-I didn’t like it. Tomb Raider-I enjoyed it and thought it was a fun movie. If anyone would like to see more (and I do mean more because hopefully it was really her) of Angelina Jolie, I highly recommend Original Sin, a fine movie available for rental. And yes, she does have weird lips. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones-It was ok. Certainly a great improvement over Episode I. One of my nephews thinks it was as good as the first movie (Episode IV). I don’t agree. The first movie was incredible. Nothing like it before and it stands alone. I do hope Lucas gets someone who can write dialog for Episode III. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone-I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring-If it doesn’t win the Hugo, there is no justice. [In this matter, at least, justice reigned.] And last, but certainly not least, Spider-man-I can hardly wait for the sequel. The kissing scene at the end was interesting in that MJ obviously recognized Peter’s lips as being the same as Spider-Man. (Would lips really feel the same upside down and right side up?) The concept was also used in one of the Batman movies.

I watch very little real time TV and no news programs. The programs liked are taped and watched at my convenience. So, just for the heck of it here are the shows I tape on a regular basis: Booknotes, Futurama, King of the Hill, Nero Wolfe, Buffy. Angel, Enterprise, and Farscape. (I was about ready to stop watching Buffy as it seemed to have lost its way. But, the last couple of episodes were great and it may be back on track. With Charisma Carpenter apparently leaving Angel, I will probably cease watching as she was the reason for watching in the first place. For some time it has appeared as if she has a medical problem.) That’s seven hours of TV a week when they are not into reruns. Then there are the odd one-time programs and sometimes rented video tapes and DVD’s. I don’t think the amount of time spent with the TV is too much. Much more time is spent reading. And too damn much time on the computer.

Try Smallville. It’s terrific, respects the Superman legend, and my friend and onetime fellow SFPAn Mark Verheiden is a writer/producer!


Brad W Foster
Irving, TX

Oh man, what a rush that was to pull Challenger #16 out of the envelope and find that incredible Dell Harris cover looking up at me! Cindy and I had just been talking about Dell not more than a week or so ago, wondering what had happened to him after so many years. He was almost an automatic fixture at every SF convention in the Texas/Oklahoma area for years, his amazing artwork always the hit of every show. Then he seemed to be moving into the pro ranks, lots of great art in mags, a few covers....then suddenly he went through some moves from city to city, and everyone has lost track of him. Did a web search in hopes of finding a big ol' site of his art telling us how he has hit the big time, but no luck. I hope somebody out there who sees that piece will write in and let us know what the big guy has been up to.


Ben Indick
Teaneck NJ

16 was a fine issue, and your tribute to R.A. Lafferty was well-deserved. I also enjoyed his work. I appreciated your tribute to Geo. Alec Effinger, poor guy, troubled all his life by ill health. Are you aware of the book I wrote about him? From Entropy to Budayeen, covering all his stuff. Unfortunately, it was published by Borgo, with lousy distribution. Clute does not even list it, although he has my book on Bradbury. Barry Malzberg thought it was fine, and George himself was happy with it. He said now his mother could be happy at last, “someone liked his stuff enough to write about it and him!” I forget the date of publishing, 1995? - he would never publish anything more. I loved his Budayeen stories.

Mike Resnick, obviously, is not a big time art-lover. He likes several natural history museums [in his list of favorites], which is fine, but only grudgingly puts in the Louvre, actually so enormous a place, and laid out so badly as to bedevil and weary the art-lover. I have not seen the Hermitage, but my list would acknowledge above all else, the best art museum in the world, for its vast collection, its easy accessibility, its splendor of shows, New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Second, the National Gallery in Washington, which, if only for its possession of da Vinci’s Ginevra da Benci, is terrific, but also for its newer section, the breathtaking East Wing, [architect] I.M. Pei’s masterpiece. Third, the National Gallery of London, inch for inch, maybe the best painting collection. Fourth, make them a tie, Wright’s Guggenheim in NYC and Gehry’s awesome Bilboa Spain Guggenheim. This is only a start. The Cairo Museum is great, and we will re-see much of it when Washington will be borrowing lots of it. He likes Gene Autry, okay, but get things into their place, man.

I like the National Gallery, despite their former hanging - as I mentioned elsewhere - of Dali’s Last Supper in the gift shop. Except for spotting the Leonardo, my major memory of the place was the salad I built in the café. Art is great but food is food.


John Berry
S. Hatfield, U.K.

Many thanks for the superb Challenger 16, thick, impeccably produced, wonderful front cover and exceptional contents.

Gregory Benford - Stephen Hawking - how absolutely marvelous - the resultant conversations were spellbinding. I must point out that - although I left school at 14 years of age after a miserable education because of evacuation in 1939 and the school being bombed in 1940 -- I am completely au fait with astronomical and cosmological thinking! In my formative years I was considered to be dim - even by my parents - actually no one seemed to understand that my naïve expression was but a façade for a very reasoning mind. And from the early fifties I have studied these subjects, purely from a layman’s point of view. I purchased Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and relentlessly plowed through it, reading some chapters several times in an attempt to encapsulate his thoughts.

A couple of years ago I visited an exhibition site in Hatfield, where the University of Hertfordshire Astronomical Complex had a display. I conversed with a learned gentleman regarding the time before the Big Bang. Everything could be explained by a singularity, he announced. He started to lose his cool with me when I persisted that he tell me where the material came from before the Big Bang. He jabbed his finger at me. “Look here,” he said, “a Universe could suddenly appear in this hall, and then disappear, but it might - it just might - develop into a fully-fledged universe.”

I was flabbergasted, and left the hall in some confusion, at this seemingly ludicrous cosmological theory, and then, dang my eyes, Greg Benford discusses the possibility of “bubbles” popping into existence in one’s living room “ballooning to the size of a cantaloupe.” Invisible, naturally - but I believe Gregory Benford. When I have sleepless nights I allow my mind to ponder over alternate universes, and very exciting it is, too, and sometimes magnificent dreams ensue, featuring Marilyn Monroe, an appreciation jointly shared with Stephen Hawking.


Speaking of Greg, in response to my statement last issue that professional writers shouldn’t compete with amateurs in the Fan Writer Hugo category, he writes:

Gregory Benford
c/o Challenger

I think fandom does itself a disservice by cutting a strict line between pros and fans, to the detriment of both. I've been a fan since 1954, publishing, editing, writing--and am still an APA member. That I am also a part-time pro matters not at all to me -- I only appeared on fan panels at the 2002 Westercon, and had a fine time. To omit fans like me, Mike Resnick and others from, as you mentioned, the Fanwriter Hugo is to deplete the field and commit a fantasy. We're fans! Indeed, maybe if there were some of us on the Hugo ballot, there wouldnt be the same old repetitive patterns in voting and outcomes -- a real race! Certainly subscribing to the historically disproved illusions that pros can't be fans (and vice versa?) does none of us any good.


E.B. Frohvet
Ellicott City MD

King Christian X of Denmark was a man of regular habits. Nearly every morning, weather permitting, he went for a ride on his horse; by himself, wearing a plain military uniform. Anyone who was so inclined could arrange to stand on a street corner and greet the King as he rode past. After the Nazi occupation of 1940, he continued to ride most mornings, solemnly returning the greetings of his countrymen - and stonily ignoring the attempts of German soldiers and officers to salute him. (Lesson in military courtesy: An officer always exchanges salutes with the military of an allied or friendly power. The King’s refusal to do was a public statement that he considered the Germans hostile invaders.) The Germans, having in mind Hitler’s own rabid security measures, were constantly amazed that the head of state could ride through the public streets, alone, without bodyguards or security. A German officer, watching the old fellow go by one morning, turned to a Danish shopkeeper standing nearby and asked curiously, “Who protects the King?” And the Dane replied, “We all do.”

Well, congratulations on another Hugo nomination. That makes, what, three years in a row? You won’t win - you should, but you won’t. I guess you’re on the way toward becoming a Usual Suspect. Assuming that’s a goal worth aspiring to.

It is, of course, and I’m proud of my nominations and grateful for them. As a genius of my acquaintance remarked, perhaps thinking of your own annoyance at the same faces winning the Hugo year after year, “The people in the know nominate, and the people who are not in the know vote.” By that standard, the nomination is the honor, and I hope to win many more. But I’d still love to have a rocket in my pocket.

Here’s a query for you: Daqve Langford has declared Ansible a semi-prozine for Hugo purposes. Will this make him ineligible for the Fan Writer award, assuming he doesn’t publish elsewhere?

Another spectacular cover on #16. I guess one can see how rampant blue-nose prudes might be offended by skimpily clad babes.

Mostly feminists of the mistaken opinion that admiration of feminine pulchitrude excludes appreciation of feminine wit, intelligence, or character - a riotous untruth.

Speaking of which, thanks to Alan White for explaining the technique used to make the #15 cover. I’ll listen to anyone talk, who actually knows something about something.

Regretfully, I must admit that I never met R.A. Lafferty, nor did such of his work as I read do much for me. Of taste there is no disputing.

Try the short stories, gems I would favorably compare to Fredric Brown’s.

In the debate between a Random Universe and Designed Universe (assuming there’s a debate: the deeper you get into physics and religion, the more they have in common), the sad health of Stephen Hawking, as recounted by Dr. Benford, argues for randomness. it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing a just and loving God would do.


Which argues for the necessity of Christ, if I may introduce a note of sincere piety, to advise us of the best way to treat one another. Enough of that - SF doesn’t like piety in its face.

It can be and has been argued that mens rea (“the intent or state of mind accompanying an act, showing a purpose harmful to society, and providing no reasonable justification”) is essential to a finding of guilt. And yet if you go into a convenience store with an unloaded gun, or even a fake gun, and wave it around, and the clerk has a coronary and drops dead on the spot, you can be tried for murder - even if you did not intend to harm him, even if your deliberate intent was not to harm him. Intent is a slippery notion. In a recent case in Maryland, a long-time schizophrenic, locally notorious as “Crazy Frank”, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for shooting two cops. Does pulling the trigger imply intent to pull the trigger? Lots of juries will think so.

Need to know some details about that case. Was Frank a diagnosed schizo, on medication? Did he evince sane behavior prior to the killings, which showed his ability to behave according to social law? What was he doing with the gun?

I have a hard time figuring out that pornography is “all about” anything except that people are interested in sex and will pay even to watch it …

I agree wholeheartedly with Sue Jones that you should keep writing op/ed pieces in order that readers should be shaken out of complacency. (We don’t necessarily have to agree.) There’s a quote posted in the East Columbia Library, from Kurt Vonnegut as I recall, to the notion that freedom of expression means protecting everyone’s ideas, not just the popular ones.

Richard Dengrove: Amir D. Aczel in Probability 1, makes the point (obvious enough once you consider it) that life could not exist for a substantial part of the history of the universe because it required the life and death of generations of stars to produce and distribute more complex elements - carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, iron - necessary to life as we understand the term. From this, he proposes as one answer to Fermi’s Paradox, that perhaps Earth is the most advanced, or one of the most advanced, intelligences in the galaxy. Now if that doesn’t disturb your sleep … Going back to the random/design question, assuming that’s a meaningful question, one can only conclude that God is extremely patient.


Jerry Kaufman
Seattle, WA

Thanks for the challenge of another 100+ page issue of Challenger. I enjoyed both the front and back covers of this issue, but I admit that, beyond Lafferty himself, and Sir Thomas More, I didn't recognize any of the characters in Dany Frolich's happy bar scene. It could be simply a typical convention gathering, for all I can tell.

Convention bars do look like that at 3 o’clock in the morning. Check out the charcater listing in Joy Smith’s LOC.

I read or skimmed the many pieces on Lafferty, and am glad you ran them. I enjoyed his short fiction as much as the next fan, and remember Fourth Mansions with fondness, even more than Past Master. Fourth Mansions struck me as having more hidden depths, though I never submerged in them enough to feel I understood the book.

The most recent issue of New York Review of Science Fiction has a very interesting piece by Don Webb about the major themes in Lafferty's work. You should find it fascinating - I know I did.

Most of my favorite museums are art museums, like New York's Museum of Modern Art and London's Tate. Sometimes little regional museums are lots of fun. There's the very odd Maryhill Museum, in southern Washington, overlooking the Columbia River. (It's an easy drive from Portland.) Built by millionaire Sam Hill to honor and please his wife, it includes Rodin sculptures and sketches, chess sets from around the world, furniture and furnishings once owned by Marie of Romania. It also has traveling shows that generally show at small museums, like the collection we saw a few years ago, of prints, posters, newspaper stories, etc., about Sarah Bernhardt, meant to show that she was the first media celebrity in the modern style.

It's just down the road from Sam Hill's reproduction of Stonehenge, built of blocks of concrete and meant as a memorial to the World War I dead from the area. You can't miss it.

Thanks for the piece from Alan White about how he created last issue's cover, and Greg Benford's piece about Stephen Hawking. I would have loved to publish the latter piece myself.

I do want to creeb at you a bit for the patchy look that Challenger has sometimes. It comes from using articles in their original typeface - I'm presuming that when you get articles such as Fred Chappell's, for instance, you're either photocopying it from its original source or using an e-mailed file without changing the author's type style and spacing. It doesn't sit well with the look of the rest of the zine, for my taste.

 You’re right; I was lazy, and distracted, and more worried about paying for the zine than about its appearance.

I would also like to creeb more strongly regarding Richard Dengrove's article. I found the writing and sometimes the paragraphing made his survey of Eighteenth Century writers a little hard to follow, and the apparent replacement of the word Medireview with Medireport really threw me. I had to check the context of both appearances to be sure I was at least 90% likely to be right about my guess. I presume this word was something you have in your spell checking dictionary for professional purposes?

If I were editing your letter column, I would have WAHFed my last letter. This one is slightly more substantial, but still... edit!

Sorry - too good to cut!


Terry Jeeves
Scarborough U.K.

Once again I must write to thank you for a massive and excellent issue of Challenger. I don’t know you manage it, but I’m darned glad you do as it makes a welcome break in the week.

I liked that glamorous lady on the cover even if her legs went out of the picture. It reminded me of a TV programme where a copper was describing a girl over the enquiry desk “… dark hair, nice legs, etc. …” then she walked away and we found he couldn’t make out her legs as she was wearing trousers! Imagination helps I suppose.

Very sorry to read about the demise of R.A. Lafferty. He seems to have been a nice guy although I must admit I never warmed to his stories. But then I’m useless at rating authors.

Benford on Hawking was a good, heart-warming (and -scaring) piece of writing. I knew in a vague sort of way about Hawking’s difficulties, but Benford really put them in perspective and showed the man’s sheet guts and determination. One wonders just what he might have achieved under normal conditions.

Dengrove on 18th Century Flying Saucers was entertaining but one can go back even further to the Bible wherein Ezekiel describes an alien visitation. Funny out of all these reports no concrete evidence or clear photos ever seems to emerge - or am I just a cynic?

  I’d’ve been surprised if folks in Ezekiel’s time could have taken photographs, but maybe the aliens could have.

As usual, your piece on law was right on the button, but I feel sorry for any lawyer called upon to defend the kind of killer you describe - other than plead insanity and leave it at that. A 21st Century Solomon would go round the bend in sorting out that lot.

Great fanzine column and thanks for the nice words on Erg.


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