OUSFG Newsletter, Early Michaelmas 1993 (Freshers beware!)

Mark Charsley <mcharsley@cix.compulink.co.uk>, 20th October 1993
Your Committee:

Mark Charsley had the misfortune to join in a spectacularly lean year,  and
has thus ended up with far too many jobs, these include being president and
editing the newsletter, as well as more distasteful jobs.  He also  doesn't
feel aardvark enough to keep on referring to himself in  the third  person,
so...  I'm the  one who  keeps on  moaning at  people to  get things  done,
getting moaned at for things people haven't done, and moaning about all the
moaning that happens around me. I have been known to  occasionally sport  a
waistcoat, and can be found at Wadham.
Frances Hardinge had the misfortune to be drunk when we needed a  volunteer
to be secretary. No-one's entirely sure what she does, but she is very good
at saying how badly she does it. She can be found at Somerville.
Alex Ralph has the misfortune of being the first treasurer in living memory
who is both keen and able, and thus has lumbered herself with being a  dead
cert for the presidency next year. She too can be found in Somerville  when
she isn't wandering around assaulting people for money.
Lucy Marsterson  has the  double misfortune  of having  her name  routinely
mis-spelt by me, and living in a college with a decent video room. She  was
thus the ideal choice for Video Rep, which means she's the  person to  moan
at if films like Inseminoid get shown. She can be found at St. Hilda's.
Matthew Marcus had the stupidity  (sorry Matt,  but there  are things  that
cannot be described as mere misfortune) to actually say "Yes" when asked to
house the library. He can  be found  in Magdelen  (especially every  Sunday
night, ha, ha, ha).
Discussion Meetings:
     These are held every Wednesday evening in St. Hilda's Lady Brodie Room
(go in the main building, up the stairs and follow the signs), at 8.15. The
basic plan is that we all drink tea or coffee, eat biscuits  and take  part
in a workshop / have a discussion / watch the Interzone Players make  fools
of themselves etc. then go down to St. Hilda's bar, or in the all too often
occurrence of them having no beer, to the Half Moon the other  side of  the
roundabout at about 9.30.
     Week 1 Dave Clements on SETI: are there aliens  out there,  and if  so
where are they?
     Week 2 Guest Speaker! Dave  Langford (see  article later  on) will  be
giving us what'll probably be the most amusing meeting of the term:  things
can only go downhill from here...
     Week 3 Colin's William Burroughs Workshop.  Bring along  some form  of
printed  media you  don't mind  cutting up,  some scissors  and some  glue.
Alternatively, large quantities of illegal substances, a wife and a gun.
     Week 4 Mo on Mad Scientists.

                               Christmas Party

          As usual, this is being held on Saturday 7th week, probably in
Corpus Christi. There will be  plenty to  drink, the  usual argument  about
what music should be played  and optional  fancy dress,  so start  planning
those costumes now... See Alex, our treasurer for more details and tickets.
Library Meetings
     These  are  held  every  Sunday evening,  from about  8.15 in  Matthew
Marcus' room in Magdelen (New Building 1, 15).  The library  has over  2500
books, and some of these are even worth reading, so  there is  bound to  be
something  you'll  like.  Considering  that  last  term, when  we lacked  a
library, people turned up every  Sunday just  for the  bar-meeting, we  are
certain to be in a bar somewhere afterwards.

                               Video Meetings

     These are held every Monday evening at about 8.15, or whenever  people
stop watching Brookside, in St. Hilda's South JCR (go in the college,  turn
left, walk down to  the river,  go in  the door  by the  dining hall,  turn
right, and it's on your left). Alternatively go via the bar and  pick up  a
drink  before-hand:  some  of the  films we've  had have  been better  when
watched blind drunk (or even better, not at all). This term's selection  is
a bit better though...
     Week 1: Dracula: Coppola's version.
     Week 2: Fire walk with me: The film prequel to Twin Peaks
     Week 3: Exorcist III: The true sequel to the 70's classic.
     Week 4: Amazon Women on the  Moon quite  a good  collection of  comedy

     Other videos that have been suggested are: the  vegetarian story  from
Sapphire and Steel, Deep Space Nine, and The Muppet Christmas Carol. If any
of you fancy these we'll put them down for the next half of term: as usual,
see a committee member.


     After the heroic efforts of Alex last term, we finally  got our  first
T-shirt order for over three years  sorted out.  In the  unlikely event  of
anyone wanting a T-shirt in the middle of November, then:
     a) you're  a  hardier  person  than  I'll  ever  be  (although we  do
        sweatshirts as well)
     b) quickly contact Alex for more details

                             Coming Attractions

     Next term sees the OUSFG banquet: an exercise in eating  so much  that
you can't get  drunk, and  then drinking  so much  that you  do. I've  been
thinking  that  it  might  be  cheaper  and  better to  hold it  in a  nice
restaurant than in a college: what do other people think? Trinity sees  the
OUSFG punt party. This doesn't often feature that many punts, but at  least
it has the OUSFG Punt Party Panto: which is utterly hilarious after  you've
had a few. On the guest author front, negotiations are continuing with Iain
Banks and Terry Pratchett. Watch this space for further details... come  to
think of it, reading future newsletters might be more productive.


     While we're on the subject of long delays: now  that the  last of  the
material  that  Neal  edited about  four years  ago has  been printed,  our
affiliated fiction magazine is looking for more short  stories and  artwork
of a vaguely SF-ish nature. While it has published the work of Ian  Watson,
Dave  Langford  and  Colin  Greenland,  it  has   also  published   stories
(allegedly:  I  haven't  read them)  about Telekinetic  Bra's and  Sentient
Genitalia, so you needn't worry too much  about your  cherished work  being
rejected. If you're interested, get in touch with Frances.


     Dragging the tone down a bit, Zool III is gathering a rather  worrying
momentum, with people actually asking to do episodes. For the  uninitiated,
it's a round-robin fiction thing, with people taking turns to write 800-odd
word episodes. The general trend appears to be  derailing the  plot at  the
beginning of your  episodes (and  quite often  at several  other points  as
well), and filling it with lots of obscure in-jokes about two other  poeple
will get. If you're interested or, God help you, want to read a copy get in
touch with me.

                                Dave Langford

     Dave  Langford is  known for  many things:  some remember  him as  the
author of the Critical Mass book review column in White Dwarf, others  know
him as the author of books such as The Leaky Establishment,  many know  him
as the being involved in all manner of fanzines, some (admittedly  slightly
old and rare people) even know him as an ex-OUSFG president, but most  know
him  as  the  writer  of  vicious  and hilarious  talks on  the worst  (and
sometimes best) of SF. This year he will be performing Tell Me The Old, Old
Story. I don't know why it's called that, but from what I  can remember  of
it from Illumination, it's  very funny.  If you  like his  talk, next  time
you're in  the library  it'd be  worth your  while looking  at his  Platten
Stories  (a  collection  of  his  articles   over  the   years),  and   the
aforementioned Leaky Establishment. Finally, if anyone wants to have a meal
with him beforehand, please get in touch with the committee by  the end  of
first week.


     Yup, it's a collection of stupid quotes: a space filler almost as  old
as the printed press, but what you don't know is not all  these quotes  are
out of context_

Mark C.:  "Mark, can I knurdle with your beans?"
Mo:       "OUSFG's like a leper colony."
Phil:     "No it's a real western: with people and everything!"
Adrian:   "It's not fair: my buttocks don't grip as well."
Neal:     "I've got lots of fuzzy pictures of poo."
Mark C.:  "Mavis, what is that, and why is it hairy?"
Neal:     "Everyone in Switzerland is dead."
Frances:  "It's a long story and it involves llamas."
Gordon:   "He dislikes RPG's and Genital Piercing... can't see the
difference myself."
Neal:     "You can only grab people when you're alone together in the
Mark B.:  (upon seeing Paul's new haircut) "It's Mr Job Interview!"
Mark C.:  "Next time I've got a jar of crunchy peanut butter, I'll hold you
to it."
Frances:  (looking at her glass) "Oh look it's gone down."
Matthew:  "Don't bother talking, you're not very good at it at the moment."
Mark B.:  "Aaah, this is where the party always ends up isn't it: outside
the ladies' toilet."
Frances:  "I haven't got drunk this year."

                   Editorial, or The Presidential Address.

     Well, here we are, another year, another newsletter and  the same  old
cover. Still, at least some of the articles are new. Should anyone be  daft
enough to want to write an article, I'll be more than happy to publish  it,
as long as it has something to do with SF: sorry Neal, Glastonbury  doesn't
really count. Apologies to Mo for misquoting  him last  issue. He  actually
"There's a plague of large babies in Wessex at the moment. Can you fill  us
in Ralph?"
Quite what psychological aberration caused me to replace the word  `babies'
with `zombies' is, quite frankly, beyond me. Hmm, can't  think of  anything
else  to  say,  hold  on  I'll  look  at the  stuff I  printed in  previous
newsletters... Oh. I've already dropped  hints about  other people  writing
articles, I can't explain last issue's title, 'cos it didn't have one and I
haven't had any problems with word-processors to moan about.  So I'll  just
thank Colin Johnson for his cover again, and point out, as usual, that this
bit is just a complete waste of time that fills a couple of column inches.

                           Mutual plugging session

     In return for getting some free advertising, I've got to give plugs to
the Comic Book Society and the Role Playing Game Society.  Right let's  get
it over with. First RPGSoc: if you begin to wonder what all the  references
to Conclave, Brandel, and the unfeasibly  brilliant cult  of Rincewind  are
about, this is the society for you. They also act as a source of players or
GM's for any RPG you're interested in. Contact Mike Oswald in Magdelen  for
more details. If you're more artistically inclined, however, CBS is devoted
to showing people that they can draw after all,  promoting both small press
and mainstream comics, and running an annual(?) comics convention, if  this
tickles your fancy, get in touch with Dan Mitchell at Keble.

                          Freshers' Guide to Fandom

     OUSFG members, it must be admitted, do occasionally come out with some
incomprehensible  gibberish_  actually  that isn't  entirely true:  they're
forever coming out with it. This next little guide may help a bit, but I've
been in the society for two years now, and I still don't understand some of

Fan: a deranged alcoholic who uses SF as an excuse to meet other members of
fandom in bars all over the country and have really bizarre  conversations.
Surprisingly several of them are very fun to know (even some  of the  beard
`n' beer-gut brigade). There is a movement to use the word fan like man (eg
fen, wofan etc.), but fortunately  not within  OUSFG. It  must be  stressed
again that SF is just an excuse, and the true focus  of fandom's  attention
may well be gleaned from later entries in this article.
Neo: the pupal form of a fan. Any freshers reading: this could be you...
Mundane: anyone labouring under the misapprehension  that SF  is all  about
Robot-men from the planet Tharg, thus understandably avoiding  SF like  the

Penguins:  What certain  fans in  Oxford occasionally  call themselves  for
reasons lost in the nonsensical  mists of  time, Easily  identified by  the
characteristic call of "Gaaaak!", with simultaneous  flapping of  stiffened
arms against the body.

Fanzines and APA's: Various amateur publishing antics fans  many years  ago
got up to. They were full of intellectual discussions about the  scientific
and literary merits of SF. However they didn't involve  enough alcohol,  so
Fandom changed it's principle activity to going to_

Cons: Short for conventions, bizarre events where marauding hordes of  fans
invade and occupy a hotel, confusing the mundanes, drinking the bar dry and
running all the local takeaways out  of food.  Recent ones  you might  hear
people talking about have been Illumination, Helicon and Lunicon; and  then

Intersection: The 1995 Worldcon: which  has about  3-5000 attendees,  lasts
for  5  days, and  costs about  £50 just  to join.  This is  being held  in
Scotland, as opposed to the  more usual  America, and  is almost  certainly
going to be the biggest and most expensive con of the decade.

Trufan: someone at a convention who is still in the bar when you eventually
go to bed.

Fakefan: someone at a convention who leaves the bar before you do.

SMOF: Acronym for Secret Master Of Fandom:  some git  who comes  up to  you
when you've had a bit too much to drink and  convinces you  that running  a
con will be fun and not at all stressful, leading to your being  `smoffed'.
And the really scary thing is despite the fact that you've  never met  them
before, they know who you are!

Media Fans: Fans who spend large amounts of  money, travel  the length  and
breadth of the country and then spend the entire con slumped in front of  a
video. They're usually harmless unless provoked (just don't ask them  about
the glaring continuity errors in episode 15 of whatever they're  watching).
To be fair several Oxford societies have been set up purely  so people  can
sit in front of a video not talking to anyone without all the inconvenience
of actually travelling to a con.

Caffeine: Substance taken by most fans to counter the effect of alcohol.

Alcohol: Substance used by most fans to counter the effects of caffeine.

Stroh:  Extreme  form  of  the  above (80%  by volume).  A charming  little
Austrian rum often given to unsuspecting freshers in large amounts with the
phrase "This is stroh: you drink it in one".

Road to Nowhere: A song that  for some  reason has  to be  played at  every
OUSFG party ever, unless the host can get to  the Hi-Fi  in time,  shouting
"No, no, no. I like my floor where it is, not in the room below."

Bohemian  Rhapsody:  An offence  in the  sight of  Man and  God, that  also
appears to have to be played at every OUSFG party ever, mainly because  the
President can't stand it.

Felching: An  utterly revolting  perversion that  you'll be  told about  by
certain members of OUSFG if you aren't careful. Just make  sure you  aren't
eating at the time.

Usenet and Email: Very computery stuff that comes in surprisingly useful if
you know other computery people, eg most  of OUSFG,  if some  conversations
are anything to go by. If you want to join  them (and  you certainly  can't
beat them: half of them would enjoy it) wander along to 13 Banbury Rd,  and
ask about computer accounts.

Elron:  Not  a  Tolkein  elf, but  slang for  L. Ron  Hubbard. This  rather
unpleasant  man  wrote  several  dire  SF  books,  founded  the  Church  of
Scientology, and used it to become stinking rich as it ruined thousands  of
lives.  He then  ruined even  more lives  by publishing  the Mission  Earth

Role Playing Games: a type of  game played  by several  OUSFG members  (and
most  of  RPGSoc, funnily  enough) where  people imagine  themselves to  be
super-heroes,  wizards, vampires,  space men  etc, with  varying levels  of
seriousness. Quite good fun, but liable to steal away  large quantities  of
your life if you aren't careful.

Conclave: an extreme version of the above, which causes you to suffer  from
paranoia while you're playing  it, and  extreme paranoia  when you're  not,
because you know other people are playing behind your back.

The  `Ton:  A  pub  in  London (currently  the Wellington  in Waterloo  Rd.
opposite  Waterloo Station,  but it  occasionally changes),  where most  of
fandom  from  around London  converge every  first Thursday  of the  month.
Spectacularly  cliquey,  but  at least  there are  a lot  of cliques.  Some
penguins are usually there by 8pm.

Genital Piercing: An old and not very funny joke I'm getting heartily  sick
of. Ask someone else who looks older than you (and who's a member of OUSFG,
otherwise you might get some strange looks), and  you too  can realise  how
funny it isn't.

John  Norman:  Infamous  author  of  the  Gor  series  of  books: a  rather
mysoginistic work, where large beefy men prove in unbelievably inarticulate
and ungrammatical prose that a woman can only achieve  fulfilment by  being
tied up, whipped and raped etc. Not a very good read, much in the same  way
that radioactive waste isn't a very healthy meal.

                          Lunicon: the Con report.

     This  was  this  year's  Unicon,  a medium  size con  held mainly  for
students. Apparently the committee kind of fell  apart at  some point  last
term, and there had been a massive panic the week before  the con  started,
but this wasn't too noticeable. Being smaller than the Eastercons I'm  used
to, it seemed remarkably dead in the mornings (which wasn't  helped by  the
bar not being open before 11am), but  it picked  up in  the afternoon,  and
what I remember of the evenings were enjoyable.
     Highlights of the con included: the Victorian  invention workshop  (my
favourite  was  the  steam-powered  mobile  cathedral:   ideal  for   those
missionary expeditions), the ninth pit of  hell debate  (a panel  including
Cthulhu, Torquemanda and Professor Plum arguing about who deserved to roast
for all eternity in the bottom-most pit of  hell: Jeremy  Beadle won),  the
round robin fiction game (highlights  of which  have been  censored for  no
readily apparent reason) and some of the cabaret items. Low-lights included
a deathly  boring quiz  (of which  I was  foolishly a  panel member:  which
rather hindered my escape) and some of the  other cabaret  items (the  four
Yorkshire men of the apocalypse spring to mind, the worst comedy production
I can remember seeing[1]: for a start there only seemed to be three of  them.
One didn't say anything for  the entire  sketch but  just sat  around in  a
corner - come to think of it, he may have had nothing to do with the sketch
- and the  other two  staggered around  a little  the worse  for drink  and
muffed the lines they were reading from a script.  How anyone  can cock  up
the  line  "Luxury!" when  it's all  they've said  for the  last couple  of
minutes is beyond me). On balance the highs  outnumbered the  lows, and  if
all else failed there was always the bar.
     Frances claimed despite knowing nothing about  SF, and  only three  of
the people there, she enjoyed it, as did Mark: who doesn't normally  attend
such events. On the whole it wasn't as good as an Eastercon, but  it was  a
lot cheaper.

                                 Stop Press
     For all you laser fans out there, there's a new  shooty shooty  place,
called Megazone just by the Canon cinema in George St. I haven't been there
so I don't know how it compares to LaserQuest.


Crow Road, by Iain Banks

     Not really an SF book (as you can tell by the lack of middle initial),
but  it is  very good  and written  by an  (occasional) SF  author, so  I'm
reviewing it anyway. I think it's his longest work yet, and concentrates on
the life of two generations of "a family of mostly amiable  over-achievers"
called the McHoans.  It lacks  any particularly  strange or  nasty bits  as
found  in  The  Wasp  Factory,  or  The  Bridge,  but   has  a   non-linear
chrononicity, with the narrative jumping around over about thirty years.  I
liked it, and if you liked the real world bits of The Bridge (finally  back
in the library), you'll enjoy it too. Oh  and there  is a  reason why  some
passages are in italics.
     N.B. Lucy seemed to think I didn't make it clear enough that I thought
this book was very good. I do, and so does she.

Complicity, by Iain Banks

     Iain Banks latest book however  is full  of all  manner of  unpleasant
deaths and unusual sex. The basic  plot is  that a  rather imaginative  and
vicious vigilante starts killing the likes of  arms dealers,  ex-government
ministers and paedophiles, in highly appropriate ways. The prime suspect is
a journalist who just happens to be investigating a possible arms deal with
Iraq involving large quantities of plutonium. If you happen to be suffering
from an over-developed sense of left-wing injustice, or  just like  reading
about nasty things happening to nasty people, it's a  good book:  certainly
if  you enjoyed  The Wasp  Factory you'll  like this.  Personally though  I
preferred Crow Road.

The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, by John Clute and Peter Nicholls.

     Well, what can I say,  the title  says it  all. It's  over 1300  large
pages of small text packed to the brim with SF info. If it doesn't hold the
information you want, God alone knows how you'll  get it[2].  However in  the
process, you'll gain lots of information you didn't actually want and  lose
a couple of reasonably enjoyable hours browsing  through it.  The entry  on
Larson, Glen A. is my favourite. Should OUSFG ever get enough money then we
really ought to get a copy for the library, but until then, if you actually
want 1.2 million words devoted to SF information, then rush  out and  spend
£50 on it now. If you don't then don't.

Mistress of the Empire, by Raymond E. Feist and Jenny Wurts

     Not a good book... it's the concluding part of a trilogy (Daughter and
Servant O.T.E.), which was a spin-off of Feist's Riftwar Trilogy (which  is
one of the better fantasy trilogies around). The basic plot is that Mara is
the sole surviving member of the Acoma  clan in  a world  closely based  on
Medieval Japan (only with wizards). Over the last two books she has brought
her family back from the brink of extinction to pre-eminence in the  empire
in a mildly interesting way; but now, unsurprisingly, she faces the biggest
challenge of her life, with the stakes not just being her life, but that of
the empire itself! Even less surprising for those who've read the  previous
books is that she succeeds in her  quest, losing  some of  her friends  and
followers in the process.  There are  some very  good bits  (for a  fantasy
trilogy) in here such as the Cho-Ja city, but most of the book just wallows
in how bad Mara feels for losing her son, or her favourite servant etc, and
the bitter-sweet ending defies description. It's difficult to feel sympathy
for someone who you know is going to win through  in the  end without  ever
making a serious mistake.  It's just  about worth  reading for  curiosity's
sake if you've read the previous two (which were a bit better), but no more
than that.

A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge.

     This book, by contrast is one of the best SF books I've read in recent
years. The plot is pure Space Opera. The basic gist is that  the galaxy  is
split  into  zones.  The  unthinking  depths  at  the centre  do not  allow
complicated machinery to work, and even reduce the IQ of sentient creatures
that enter them.  As you  travel further  out, however,  the complexity  of
machines and thought allowed increases, until near the edge  in the  Beyond
it  is  possible to  travel faster  than light.  Further out  still is  the
Transcend where the Powers can operate: creatures  immensely more  powerful
and intelligent than the mortal races in the Beyond. In the prologue,  some
humans  messing about  with stuff  they shouldn't  wot of  create a  highly
malevolent Power. A few of them escape, carrying something the Power  wants
very badly indeed. These humans travel far out of its influence, almost  in
to the Slow Zone, and are taken into the care  of a  civilisation of  small
hive minds, known as Tines. The book  then alternates  between the  humans'
interaction  with  the  Tines  (which  reads  much  like  Duncton Wood,  or
Watership  Down  to  use a  slightly less  accurate, but  more widely  read
analogy), and the search in the Beyond for these humans and the information
they carry. The Beyond reminded me of the Hegemony in  Hyperion, and  Vinge
has obviously become a Usenet freak: there are plenty of Net postings, some
even with the typical `please forgive me if you've heard this before, but_'
introductions. To be fair, in a society like Vinge postulates,  information
would be the most important  commodity around,  and bandwidth  restrictions
would  limit  rule  out  cyberspace-like  environments,  but it's  slightly
disappointing  that Vinge's  far future  civilisation is  just Usenet  writ
large. That  aside, this  book is  a very  well written  example, like  the
aforementioned Hyperion, of 90's technophobia, and is well worth reading.

Membership Prices

     Well, assuming we convince you to join, here's the damage:

     Term      £3             Year           £8
     Life      £12            Eternal        £16

     The  first  three  are  obvious,  and  the  last  is  some  ridiculous
complication some idiots put in the constitution, and can be safely ignored
unless you're very drunk and/or foolish. You can upgrade your membership by
paying the difference, plus an extra quid. Of course the ideal place to pay
up is...

                               Freshers' Party

     This is on Sunday 1st week, from 8pm,  in St.  Hilda's M.C.R.:  follow
the map  below, and  then follow  the signs.  Various silly  games will  be
present, as will  OUSFG's infamous  free punch,  in it's  very own  limited
edition presentation bucket. All freshers are welcome, as  are all  society
members, but can the latter please bring along a bottle, 'cos  we know  how
much you drink.


[1] remember: I don't watch the interzone player productions_
[2] Assuming of course you want some SF information: it's not quite so  hot
on what's for dinner for instance.

Online copy courtesy of
Mark Grant
tidied up by
Tim Adye