¡Rábanos Radiactivos! # 2253

Written by Fred Patten, and intended for Apa L, 2253rd Distribution, LASFS Meeting No. 3701, July 17, 2008.
Golden State Colonial Convalescent Hospital, 10830 Oxnard Street, North Hollywood, California 91606-5098.
Telephone: hospital(818) 763-8247; personal (818) 506-3159 * eMail:fredpatten@earthlink.net

Denvention 3 in 2008! Anticipation in 2009! Salamander Press #2737


Congratulations to the Pasadena bid for Westercon 61 in 2010 on its win, and to all its Guests of Honor especially Marc Schirmeister! I hope that I will be able to attend it.

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My thanks to all who have supported me in the hospital's change to make me sit in my wheelchair longer. A more important reason is that I have been having greater trouble swallowing solid food, so the nursing home is having me sit in my wheelchair during lunch and dinner so gravity when I eat can help me swallow better. The nurses who each have to help several patients cannot put me back to bed and give me my computer right away. The nurses have to give me medicine and check my blood sugar several times each day on an increasingly frequent schedule as my health decreases. I had to tell my sister to stop bringing me Jarritos soft drinks weeks ago because they contain so much sugar. Apparently the nurses are required to check my blood sugar count for diabetes on a schedule four or five times each day, including waking me at 5:15 a.m. to do so, and give me medicines on another schedule, so there are reasons besides the doctor's order to socialize that keep me from spending as much time on my computer as I used to. Complaining to the nursing home's management to let the nurses let me stay in bed longer uninterrupted and socialize via my computer will not help. Sorry.

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Another old review by me:

Aldair in Albion, by Neal Barrett, Jr. Frontispiece by Josh Kirby. NYC, DAW Books, May 1976, 205 pages, $1.25; SBN: 0-451-UY1235; ISBN: 0-87997-235-1.

It's not easy any more for a s-f author to come up with a totally fresh plot. Most new fiction relies on variations of familiar themes. How successful it is depends upon how adept the author is in making old ideas seem new, or in making his writing so interesting that the reader is caught up even though the outcome is predictable. Aldair in Albion is a considerable success in the latter case.

The story is related in the first person by Aldair, who is (when we meet him) a student in a primitive community reminiscent both of the northern Roman frontier and of medieval European college towns. It is immediately revealed that Aldair and his compatriots are not human, although they believe themselves to be. There are also references to forbidden ruins and mysterious godlike forerunners. In other words, Barrett makes no secret from the outset that he's working another variation on the Genus Homo/Planet of the Apes theme, and that he doesn't expect the climax to be nearly as big a mystery to the reader as it is to Aldair. But it doesn't matter, because the interest in the novel is not on what will happen but on how the events will affect Aldair and his friends.

Aldair is a bit of a prig, interested in learning and intolerant of social distractions, which include religious restrictions on topics he wishes to study. When he is accused of witchcraft and must flee Silium (no great hardship since he had already reached the limits of permissible scholarship), he falls in with a barbarian warrior who has likewise just escaped captivity in the town. Although Aldair and Rheif are natural enemies, both are commonsensical enough to see that it is to their mutual advantage to help each other as long as they are going in the same direction. But fate - and Aldair's insatiable curiosity - keep leading them astray. As they drift through new cultures, Aldair learns new facts about the history of the world, and they pick up more acquaintances among those who are dissatisfied with superstitious dogma about the origins of creation. Finally Aldair and Rheif make the forbidden journey to the island god-home of Albion in search of the final answer. And even though the reader will long since have guessed what it is, Barrett tells it very powerfully and movingly.

The novel succeeds through its strong characterizations, its brisk pace, its colorful settings, and its giving the reader a slight sense of superiority over the protagonists without in any way making them seem stupid or inferior. Best handled are the characterizations, especially the almost reluctantly-growing friendship between Aldair and Rheif, who by rights should slay each other on sight. (When they meet Aldair is wearing boots made of the fur of one of Rheif's kinsmen, while Rheif has doubtlessly eaten some of Aldair's relatives.) Barrett also convincingly handles the tricky task of manipulating an essentially comic-book cast of talking, clothes-wearing animals and making the story seem like real science fiction rather than fantasy. I was going to object to some of the nomenclature - surely parallel evolution wouldn't be so close as to duplicate names like Albion and Niciea - but he thought of that, too, and plausibly explains it in the climactic revelation.

Aldair in Albion isn't going to win any awards and it makes no pretensions at any seriousness or depth, but I can't remember when I've sat down with light leisure reading and enjoyed it more. I may say that I'm delighted to read in Locus that Barrett is working on a sequel. Highly recommended, especially for junior-high and high-school libraries or wherever there is any demand for fresh variations on the Planet of the Apes theme.

Delap's F&SF Review #20, November 1976, page 29.

This review was written years before Furry fandom existed. I suppose that it shows my incipient fondness for the genre. There were eventually four Aldair novels; this first one is the best. It should be in the LASFS Library.

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-- Comments on Last Week's Distribution:

Cover - (Minski) Water on Mars - subtle yet obvious. Thank you.

Godzilla Verses #199 - (DeChancie) The pockets on T-shirts are just big enough to hold a pair of glasses, but they tend to fall out. ## I wish that I could guest-lecture at your classes, too. I enjoyed guest-lecturing on anime at Ernie Pintoff's classes on animation at USC in the 1990s. ## I remember A Change of Hobbit before Dangerous Visions. I don't remember if either shelved s-f and fantasy and horror separately, but I don't think so. It's only recently that horror has become such a distinct genre from the other two.

De Jueves #1591 - (Moffatts) Wasp is a novel, so it would not be in a collection of Eric Frank Russell's best short stories. ## I tend to attribute all fannish typos to Rick Sneary.

Vanamonde #789 - (Hertz) The surge in fantasy arguably started in the early-1960s with Don Bensen at Pyramid reprinting the Harold Shea stories by de Camp & Pratt and other stories from Unknown Worlds and the 1963 de Camp anthology Swords and Sorcery. Then Ace and Ballantine published the 1965 paperback reprints of The Lord of the Rings. The late '60s were when Lin Carter started the Ballantine fantasy classics reprint series. ## Yes, Edd Vick is a member of Rowrbrazzle, and he usually attends most Worldcons. He also attends conventions in the Seattle area; maybe he was at a Corflu there. When was the last Corflu in the Seattle area?

It Is Wild-Fire Season - (Cantor) I will defer to Ky Moffat as to the color of the poppies around her house. ## Yes, the nursing hospital is more interested in treating my symptoms and giving me therapy and medicine on its schedule than in keeping me in fandom. ## Talk about the Enron Loophole makes me think of Li'l Abner's catchphrase, "Mah brain is strained." I cannot develop any interest in it.

I Defended Uranus - (Gold) Thank you for getting my three reviews online.

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