OUSFG Newsletter, Early Michaelmas 1993 (Freshers beware!)
Mark Charsley <email@example.com>, 20th October 1993
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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: 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
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. 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
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.
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
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.
 remember: I don't watch the interzone player productions_
 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
tidied up by