Orange County Science Fiction Club Orange County Science Fiction Club

Past Meetings

---- 2007 ----

November 28, 2007
  • Guest/program: Gwido Zlatkes from UCR Librory - The Eaton Collection

    Here is a quote from Greg Benford, who was Writer-in Residence in 2007, about the collection:

    "I had a great time at UCR in 2007, especially delving into that intergalactic marvel, the largest and most elegant assembly of fantastic literature within light years, the Eaton Collection. Any SF writer will have the time of his/her life as SF Writer In Residence there. It's a literary time machine!"
    Gregory Benford

    Gwido was a welcome and wonderful guest substituting for Dr. Melissa Conway. Very enthusaiatic about the collection and the upcoming conference, he told us about the history of the Eaton Collection at UC Riverside and about the Eaton Conference which will be held at UC Riverside in spring 2008.

    His entertaining power point presentation will eventually be posted here for all to see again. For this we are grateful to Gwido and for his time in answering questions following his talk.

    Gwido Zlatkes is Archival Processing Librarian, Special Collections at UC Riverside Library.

    "Rollback" by Robert Sawyer. (2007, 320 pages)

    Robert is the GoH at Loscon this year.

    Sarah Halifax, an 87 year-old astronomer is offered rejuvenation so she can decipher a mysterious alien message. She agrees to the vastly expensive treatment on condition her husband Don gets it as well. The only problem is the treatment fails to work on her, but Don is getting younger and more energetic by the day and taking an interest in the young female grad student helping Sarah decode the alien message. Sawyer looks into the social and moral implications of rejuvenation technology.

    Nobody was particularly enthusiastic about this book. This attitude could be discerned by the fact that only one member of the group actually finished it. The author took two disparate fields of speculation: the effects of rejuvenation, and first contact, and didn't really bring them together. They relationship between old Sarah and youthful Don didn't say anything of note, and the speculations about aliens were delivered in expository lumps. I would say that if you are going to try this author, read his Hominids series which is widely regarded as his best work.

    Availability: Should be easy to find. Cheap on Probably available at your local library.

October 31, 2007
  • Guest/program: Mark Hull-Richter, fantasy author

    Mark told us about the inspiration and writing of his two five book fantasy-adventure series. The first novel of the series Zentek Ascendent is now published and available. Mark read some of the first novel to give us an idea of his writing style and the story.

    Marks experience is remarkably similar to that of Alan Vekich's and Art Kessner's experience with the genesis of Ivory Sword, starting by working on a game and ending in writing a novel.

    Mark is a modern wired author using electronic publishing to launch his series. He told us about his looking at the various current publising options and how he decided on publishing these novels on the Internet.

    Before Mark spoke, we concluded a bit of club business, discussing our club table at Loscon. We still have sufficient flyers, business cards and the banner so the basics were taken care of. We also decided to print up some bookmarks. Ralph volunteered to do a display for behind the table with our 25th anniversary as its theme.

    Ralph is looking for ideas and material for the display. The first thing he wants is a snappy title, something better than Orange County Science Fiction Club 25th Anniversary.

    Secondly, he needs photos of group activities, guest speakers. Does anyone have any photos of Octavia Butler? We need a list of all our guest speakers and the dates they spoke on so if he can't get photos of them at our club, he can lift photos of them from off the web.

    Ralph's E-mail address is

    If you can scan the material in at high resolution and send it to Ralph as an E-mail attachment, do so. If not contact Ralph for his mailing address.

    I have a couple of suggestion. The first is a cover of an Orange pulp and the second is a memorial photo of Jeff Stein.

    "The 37th Mandala" by Marc Laidlaw. (1999, 352 pages)

    Science-Fiction/Horror. A cynical, hack writer takes the ancient text of the 37 mandalas and turns into a slick, new age work, which becomes a best seller. A cult of readers spring up and accidentally call up these Lovecraftian manifestations from the void. Now our hack writer has to deal with what he has wrought.

    Availability: This is not a popular work so it may be more difficult to find. Very cheap on Try your local library.

    This month's book was the 37th Mandala by Mark Lailaw. It is the story of a cynical, hack writer, Derek Crowe, who takes the ancient text of the 37 mandalas and turns into a slick, new age work, which becomes a best seller. Some of his readers take the work very seriously and follow his prescriptions, calling out the ancient chants, which call up Lovecraftian manifestations from the void.

    The reception this book got was mixed. Some enjoyed the work, but others came away dissatisfied. There was a general agreement that the writing was crisp. The book is very readable. And there are some nice touches like at the beginning of each part, there is the original Mandala text followed by Derek Crowe, the writer's adulterated version. Here's an example.

    You are our natural prey, our predestined slaves, and we joyously swear forever to whip you to our bidding, until you fall and fail us, when we shall devour you as is our right. ----the original.

    We are your natural guides, your spirit tutors, and we have vowed eternally to spur you on to great accomplishments until the time is ripe for you to transcend the mortal plane and rise with our assistance to your cosmic destiny.

    ----Derek Crow's version

    Those of us who were dissatisfied with the book found that the a story couldn't make up its mind what type of story it was going to be.

    The book started with a prolog set in Cambodia in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge that on its own was a genuinely creepy little story. There was also a flask-back to the childhood of the main character (Derek Crowe) that stood out as another creepy little tale, but the rest of the book was written the a more facile tone expected of a satire on the gullibility of New Age devotees and the travails of greedy, sleazy people getting their comeuppance. The author then tried for a horrific ending, which came over as over-the-top, and in any case the somewhat cliched horrors it tried to invoke were a pale shadow of the genuine horrors of Cambodia.

    I'd recommend this book as an airline flight reader, something that could withstand the frequent interruptions of boarding a plane, and if you didn't reach the end before your flight arrived it wouldn't matter.

    Availability: This is not a popular work so it may be more difficult to find. Very cheap on Try your local library.

September 26, 2007
  • Guest/program: No guest scheduled.

    "Paper Eater" by Liz Jensen (2000, 256 pages).

    A dystopian satire on rampant consumerism. This the quirky tail of some of the inhabitants of Atlantica, a somewhat orwellian state that makes its living taking in the world's garbage.

    Availability: Hard to find. She's a British author. second hand at about $15.00. It's also available cheaply from

    If anyone needs help getting this book, I can order it for them from Contact me at

August 29, 2007
  • Guest/program: Discussion of the Masters of Science Fiction TV series

    After extensive discussion on the OCSF mail list of this series and its many disaapointments, we watched the final program and shared further comments regarding the series and that show.

    "Rainbows End" by Vernor Vinge ,(2006, 400 pages).

    A thriller that provides a vivid portrait of the near future (2025), "Rainbows End" is this year's Hugo award winner for best novel at Nippon 2007.

    The book centers on an incident at UC San Diego (home turf for the author) in a near future in which electronic interactivity is ubiquitous and everyone wears their electronic interface and lives in a virtual world that is draped over reality (second life and real life merged). It's a surprisingly dystopian future where the old can be rejuvenated, but only to go back to work (the concept of retirement has been dropped). To function in this society you need to learn to operate a difficult and unintuitive interface. Otherwise, if you can't, there is no room for you.

    It is a fragmented society where everyone can live in their own little imaginary overlay, but undergirding the system is a ubiquitous police state that controls all the underlying aspects of this world so it can monitor it. Terrorism has become such a threat that the state, on a hair-trigger alert, monitors all activities and deploys instantly when a threat is sensed, responding with high-powered lasers or nuclear weapons depending on the level it perceives.

    Among the reading group, the books reception was mixed. Some found it rewarding for the imaginative picture it painted. Others felt that poor characterization in an inert and unfocused story overladen with jargon made it a poor read. The big problem was that the context of the story was a poor match for the ideas the author was trying to illustrate.

    I think your interest in this book will depend very much on the relative value you place on ideas vs. good story structure.

    Availability, widespread: Most libraries, Paperback at any bookstore, amazon secondhand.

July 25, 2007
  • Guest: CSUF Prof/author Dr. David Sandner

    Dr.Sandner has written Fantastic Literature: A Critical Reader a book on Science Fiction through the lens of literary criticism. Click the link and read the review at

    Dr. Sandner is a CSUF faculty member in English & Comparative Literature Dept., and a board member of Cal State Fullerton Donoghue Children's Literature Center. He lectures on genera fiction: mystery, horror, fantasy and SF, as well as the Nineteenth century romantic poets.

    He talked about his love for science fiction and the connection he sees between the two subjects he teaches. Both deal with the imagination. The Romantic Movement in the 19th century explored the imagination both through their poetry and the gothic novel. They examined the idea of one's willing suspension of disbelief where you know a story being told is patently untrue, but you are drawn into it nevertheless. This sublime experience as Dr. Sandner calls it, the opening up of new insight, new perspectives through the exercise of the imagination has been wildly popular over the years often eclipsing the so called more impotent "mundane" fiction. Dr. Sandner went on to outline how gothic fantasy gave rise to the genera of horror, mystery, fantasy and science fiction genera.

    "Chasm City" by Alastair Reynolds,

    A noirish, baroque, far-future space opera. (704 pages, 2003). It's available very cheaply secondhand on Amazon. It may also be available at your local library.

    An amnesiac hitman chases the killer of his boss through a future in which the colonized worlds are beset by warfare and civilizational collapse.

    The book got a mixed reception. Some of the group enjoyed it. The book was very readable and the universe the story took place in was complex and interesting.

    Others of us found, numerous plot holes, the characters actions somewhat arbitrary, and a general pointlessness to the whole story with no real development to the elements bought up.

    This led to an argument as whether the aforementioned problems were necessarily a detriment to a good adventure yard, and to a discussion as to whether it was a space opera as advertised or something more.

    The best that can said is that as a space opera it brings some interesting speculative elements and fresh ideas to the form, but if you consider it a work of speculative fiction then it is poorly done.

    Whether you like the book or not will depend very much on your reading tastes.

June 27, 2007
  • Guest: Author Dennis Fischer

    This was a very interesting meeting with some surprising examples of Science Fiction films from the silent era shown by Dennis. One Russian film "Aelita Queen of Mars" (spelling uncertain) was particularly interesting with very modern sets, costuming and special effects. Dennis told us many interesting details about these early films, some familiar and some previously undiscovered by many of us. However, during the Q&A, some members revealed they had considerable knowledge of some of these films already.

    Everyone enjoyed the presentation and look forward to Dennis returning in the future for more of his interesting information.

    In his book Science Fiction Film Directors, 1895-1998 Dennis discusses the professional work of 83 sci-fi film directors.

    Dennis has had a lifelong fascination with science fiction and horror in films and writing. His book covers directors such as Terry Gilliam and Steven Spielberg, who have made significant contributions to the sci-fi genre, even if they have directed more mainstream pictures.

    He has also written a companion book about horror film directors.

    June's book will be "Dying Inside." by Robert Silverburg (188 pages)

    Written in 1972, it is the story of a telepath losing his powers. It's available on for under $10.00. Check secondhand bookstores and your local library. Libraries carry a lot of his works.

    Dave Moore gives this summary of the reading group's thoughts:

    While the writing was vivid, the problem was that the story was about a telepath whose losing his powers and that was it. The other shoe didn't drop so to speak. An unsympathetic main character didn't help the reader embrace the story either; he was a whinny piss-ant. The book was written in 1972 and reflects the milieu of the times (angst, drugs and promiscuity) and while all that was no doubt exciting stuff when the book came out, it has dated to the humdrum now. However, given all the story's flaws, its lack of action, its unsympathetic main character, most of the group still enjoyed the book and would recommend it, such was the depth and eloquence of the portrayal of the mind of the telepathic main character. It is in my opinion one of the best descriptions of the inner workings of an alien character I have come across.

May 30, 2007
  • Open meeting - no guest

    After bringing up points of interest and notices from individual members, we discussed three items.

    The first, bought up by Catherine through an E-mail, noted that we are approaching our 25th anniversary as a club (our first meeting was Jan. '83), and we should mark our anniversary as a way of publicizing ourselves. Two points were noted: Loscon is coming up and we will have a presence there, and for our January meeting next year we should do something special, but nothing was finalized. We are just at the stage of coming up with ideas.

    Secondly, Dick requested help with the website. He needs a backup person who can update the information on the website if he's too busy.

    Finally, Dick suggested that as an alternative to having guests travel to the club meetings, we use web cam interviews. It was noted that there are problems with this proposal. The club will need broad band web access. Video taping guest speakers and putting them on our website was considered as an intermed iate step. Since the club finances are healthy, we authorized the payment of money to defray guest speakers gas costs.

    After that we just sat around and chatted.

    This month's book was "Kindred" by Octavia Butler.

    This month's book was Octavia Butler's first novel. Kindred is a story of a young, present-day, African-American woman who is drawn back into the past to save one of her ancestors, a young white boy.

    The time-travel functions as the "Maguffin" to enable Octavia to examine the relationships involved in slavery. Octavia brings us back to that time with a vivid depiction of its bigotry and brutality and shows that it was such a powerful institution that nobody, not even a modern day person could escape its effects.

    Most of the group enjoyed the work and most would recommend it to other science fiction fans with the caveat that some Hard Science Fiction fans may not like it. For those of you who really liked the story, Will Morton recommends Toni Morrison's "Beloved." It is a story about the ghost of a dead child. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel is set in the post civil war years and deals with the cruelty of slavery as well.
    (Dave Moore)

April 25, 2007
  • Video Night

    Videos shown were a documentary on fantasy and science fiction artist Frank Frazetta and an interview of Octavia Butler.

    An interesting coincidence occurred after the meeting. While we were taking the DVD player and screen out to the car, an older gentleman who had be at a table just outside our meeting room approached us and asked if we were having a religious meeting. After I explained that we were a science fiction club, he introduced himself and asked if we knew who Karel Capek was. Dr. Rene Chytil's father was a friend Karel Capek and thus Dr Chytil got to know him when he was a young boy in Czechislovakia. We assured him that we did know about him and his coining the word "robot" in his book R.U.R (Rossam's Universal Robot) from the Czech and Slovak words for work and labor. His family came over in the first half of the last century and settled in Southern California where his father became friends with many of the people in the film industry.

    Dr. Chytil expressed interest in talking to some of our writers in the club who might be interested in developing some ideas he has into a book or screenplay.

    This month's book was Learning the World by Ken Macleod
    It was picked because it was one of last year's Hugo nominee's, but the group, without exception, found it very disappointing.

    The basic premise of the story: a generation ship 15,000 years into the future is approaches its target colony world only to find there's an alien civilization has potential, but the story itself is not well thought out.

    On top of that the characterization is flat and the story had very little tension. I could say more but why bother. This is a mediocre work that feels as if it was written to fulfill a contractual obligation.(Reported by Dave Moore)

March 28, 2007
  • Guest Science Fiction and Fantasy writer Victor Koman

    Three time winner of the Promethius Award Victor Koman is another of Orange County's notable authors. His book Kings of the High Frontier published in 1998, a massive novel, has been popular and continues to be available from

    The reader's group book for the March meeting was "The Cyberiad" by Stanislaw Lem The Cyberiad consists of a series of fables set in a distant future where mankind has long since disappeared and been replaced intelligent robots who they live in feudal kingdoms with space travel. (Grimm's fairy tales for robots.) It has to remembered that Stanislaw Lem lived in Communist Poland during the 60's so he had to write in such a way that would pass muster with the plodding intellect of the government sensor but allow the reader to see between lines at what he was getting at. Under this is a disguise, he discusses the nature of tyranny, makes some particularly salient points to make about torture (The Tale of the Three Storytelling Machines) and plays with various philosophical concepts. Almost without exception, everyone liked the book and found it entertaining both at the level of a series of entertaining tales and as a set of intelligent ruminations. (Dave Moore)

February 28, 2006
  • Guest Gerald Nordley Author and Astronautical Engineer

    A life member of SFWA, Gerald has published dozens of short stories plus many articles in Analog and Asimov's and his novella "Into the Miranda Rift" was nominated for a Hugo in 1994,

    For his day job Gerald is a real live rocket scientist whose recent research has been in the interesting area of tethers for space transport and other neat uses. He made an exciting presentation about the future potential of tethers for our reach into space.
    Click here to find out more about Space Tethers.

    The meeting went long since Gerald Nordley's presentation on space tethers precipitated a long discussion afterwards, Thus, some of the reader's group weren't there and some of those who were had not finished the February book. So we decided to push The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem back a month to March.

January 31, 2007
  • Guest Fantastic Fantasy and SF Artist Sue Dawe

    Click to visit Sue's gallery

    Sue is a regular in the LOSCON art show and dealers room. She is well known for her beautiful paintings of unicorns, dragons, wizards, cats, winged horses and other fantastic dreams she shares.
    To view a gallery of her art click her painting

    Sue gave us a good look at her career to date, how she got into art and the paintings she has done over the years.She was wonderful to talk with and told several interesting anecdotes which afforded insight into why she is a successful artist and delightful person to know.

    Stand on Zanzibar & The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

    Stand on Zanzibar
    A Hugo-award-winning novel of over-population, poitical struggles, and warped ethics. "A quite marvelous projection in which John Brunner landscapes a future that seems the natural foster child of the present...Everything compounds into a fractured tomorrow--from the population explosion to Marshall McLuhan to the Territorial Imperative to the underground press..."--Kirkus Reviews

    The Sheep Look Up
    An enduring classic, this book offers a dramatic and prophetic look at the potential consequences of the escalating destruction of Earth. In this nightmare society, air pollution is so bad that gas masks are commonplace. Infant mortality is up, and everyone seems to suffer from some form of ailment. The water is polluted, and only the poor drink from the tap. The government is ineffectual, and corporate interests scramble to make a profit from water purifiers, gas masks, and organic foods. Environmentalist Austin Train is on the run. The Trainites, environmental activists and sometime terrorists, want him to lead their movement. The government wants him in jail, or preferably, executed. The media wants a circus. Everyone has a plan for Train, but Train has a plan of his own This suspenseful science fiction drama is now available to a new generation of enthusiasts.

    They are both available on They may also be available at your local library. Copies should also be available at second hand bookstores.

Email for more information or call Greg at (949) 552-4925.