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Letters to the Editor, March 1999

This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for March 1999.

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From: Brett Wright
Date: 3/25/99
Subj: Your web page

I’ve been reading your web page for over a year now. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading as much of it as possible when given the chance.

You have the great gift of being a good storyteller with just the right amount of tongue in cheek to make it a really enjoyable read.

I wanted to thank you for making a web page that allows me enjoy a quick break or a good thought provoking session.

Thank you for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoy my pages. Sometimes I have my tongue so far into my cheek that it sticks out my ear. People look at you funny when you have a tongue sticking of your ear.

… continued on next rock …

They’ll only look at you funny if you are trying to lick stamps.

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From: Jack Craig
Date: 3/20/99
Subj: Neat home page

I just ventured through your neat home page and I was impressed at the work you have put into it. You have accumulated a lot of stuff that is very interesting to read. I also think along your lines and I have a web page that provides me with an energy outlet that I share with the world. Perhaps you have seen it in your world web travels. If not …. try ……

It truly is great fun isn’t it? Take care – Jack Craig

I hadn’t seen it. It is indeed a nifty home page. I think you have done a better job of formatting than I have although in truth I have been quite happy to settle with model-T web page layout. At this point my site is too big to think about reorganizing it. In Beauty and the Beast there is a scene where the Beast is moaning and groaning and Mrs Potts tells him that the castle is under attack. The beast says “It doesn’t matter now; just let them come”. That’s my theory about beautifying my web site.

In any case I agree. It’s great fun.

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From: Amara D. Angelica
Date: 3/22/99
Subj: Darwin awards

So who created the first Darwin award?

Nobody knows, perhaps not even the person who started it all. “Darwin Awards” started circulating circa 94-95 in email on the net. The line “think of it as natural selection in action” is quite a bit older; IIRC Larry Niven used it in an SF essay a couple of decades ago.
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From: Lisa P
Date: 3/14/99

Dear Webmaster,

I was searching the web and found your web site to be of interest to my clients customers. It looks like you get a lot of web traffic and have many products that are of great demand to your customers. By combining our efforts we may be able to increase web traffic going to both of our web sites.

My client site specializes in quality sexual enhancement products. The site is geared toward consumers who want to enhance their sex life. The web site addresses nutritional and psychological aspects of sexuality. My clients site is for adults only and is not pornographic. The site has an online reference guide, free chat site(coming soon), news and information service, free software and links to other sexually interesting resource sites.

The sexual products featured on the site are geared toward the consumer who wants to make an informed decision regarding their sexual issues. Each sexual product is backed by scientific research. On line brochures describe sexual issues, products and research studies in easy to understand terms. Featured products may help or enhance sex, sexual intercourse, impotency and pre-ejaculation. Visitors can browse by product name or by health category.

If you would like me to contact you regarding a profitable alliance between our two web sites please email me so I may forward your name to my client.

Dear Lisa P.

Somehow I doubt that you took a very good look at my site which does indeed get quite a fair bit of traffic. In any case I am NOT, repeat NOT, interested in such an alliance. This is an excessively non-commercial site. I will say, however, that I was quite charmed by your solicitation, even if it is a form letter.

I get a fair amount of junk mail directed to my web site (don’t we all) but I thought this one was a cut above the usual. Rest assured that this site will not be advertising aids for the sexually dysfunctional any time soon. Nor will you see tacky little banners for any other products or businesses. I am an individualist; I will do my own tacky, thank you.

I thought the bit about getting a lot of web traffic was interesting. The mailing list generators are getting smarter. As it happens this site does get a lot of traffic, most of it produced by the humor page which is quite popular and by the Darwin Awards page which is ridculously popular. I have an awful suspicion that there are links to them in places that I don’t know about. Alta vista used to be fairly reliable as a way to find who was linked to your site but their reportage seems to have gotten rather ratty of late.

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From: Benjamin Robichaud
Date: 3/8/99
Finally, info on Piltdown!

I just wanted to say thanks for finally putting out an informative and thorough web page on the Piltdown hoax. As a Physical Anthropology/Archaeology student and history buff, it hasn’t been easy finding more than a few paragraphs on this interesting topic. There will always be a debate about the “missing links”, and it’s interesting to look at mistakes that have been made along the way. One suggestion: Perhaps more info on WHY Piltdown man duped the scientific community for 40 years – anxiousness to find a large brained, ape-like mandible ancestor instead of the other way around. Thanks again!

One of the frustrating things about the web is that the search engines do not rate the pages that they list in any meaningful way. BTW the page isn’t recent; I put it up in 1996.

I did mention the why with a reference to Hammond’s paper but it’s only a short paragraph. I should probably expand it. One key point is that there were two periods to take into account – one (early) when it was enthusiastically accepted and one (later) when it was more or less ignored.

I’ve tried to create a central reference point that is a more or less scholarly resource. It helps that other people who are better informed than I am are willing to tag along and set me straight. 🙂

In any case, thanks for the kind words.

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From: LaVerne Wise
Date: 3/12/99
Subj: Web page

Keep up the good work! You make the day a little easier to handle.

I dunno, is this a good thing? 🙂

Good luck and I hope you enjoy what you find.

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From: Nonapior
Date: 3/11/99
Subj: just a visitor

hey there!

no, i’m not a stalker, but i checked out your web page while looking for stuff on waiting for godot and i’m using your humorous “waiting for godot in various modes” as an actual source. i don’t know if it’ll float in english class, but what i really wanted to tell you is that your web page is…unusual–but in a good way. it’s something that i have to talk a second look at. i think i’ll do that right now. keep it up!

Hey, if you can sneak it past your English teacher, more power to you. I opine it is fair to say that my web site is unusual – “…unusual” is an even better description.

Good luck and I hope you enjoy what you find.

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From: Josh Alley
Date: 3/4/99
Subj: Creationism, an American Disease

… see February letters

Thank you for your prompt reply. I’m sorry to hear that you’re not interested in a discussion; I was hoping at long last to find an evolutionist interested in carrying on rational discussion on the topic that shapes the worldview of so many scientists. Anytime you’ve a hankering, fire off an email and we can talk.

You’re correct in asserting that most opponents of evolutionary theories have little understanding of that which they propose to criticize. To write off the whole bunch because of your limited experience is, I would have to say, premature. On the other hand, most proponents of evolution (including Mr. Colby, whose web page I just visited) also set up straw men in their criticism of the “ignorant” advocates of the “obsolete” idea of Intelligent Design. Perhaps both sides have been guilty of closed-mindedness at times, eh?

Thanks for your time, brief as it was.

You’re welcome. If you want to debate the topic may I suggest that you consider posting to the news group which is the designated stomping ground for such debates. I must warn you, however, that the discussion there is often rowdy and undisciplined. You would be wise to lay down for yourself strict ground rules in managing your responses. In particular it is advisable to completely ignore personal attacks and comments which are empty of significant content. Many of the “evolutionists” who post there are, ah, ill-mannered.

One advantage to doing so is that you will get a chance to test your thoughts against knowledgeable criticism.

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From: Solomon Eutavick
Date: 3/7/99
Subj: hi

I wrote to you a while ago…i thought u were a respectable old man…instead you are a cook it seems….i thought of u as a mentor…instead i realize u are a worthless old man like all adults in my horrible life…thanks for nothing

Er, ah, I’m sorry to hear that. I am perfectly willing to admit to being a worthless old man and I wouldn’t commend myself to anybody as a mentor. I do wonder what gave you the idea that I was a cook. Are you sure didn’t mean “crook”? I’m not one of those either. In any event I do hope your life improves.
… continued on next rock …

thanks for the respondance….i didnt mean cook or crook i meant kook…you know??a lunatical fool??does that describe you better than cook or crook??hope nothing u dont care

Much better. I can support the character of a kook much better than that of a crook or a cook.
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From: Stephanie Turner ([email protected])
Date: 2/6/99
Subj: Joe and Janice Yesterday

I have just read your intriguing story of Janice and Joe. For the rest of us out there in the world, bumping into people from yesterday, I think this is an important story. The sad thing is, I have missed something. I was trying to find the bottom line, the answer to it all and I am left with a knawing conclusion that it just didn’t work out. Please tell me that there is a solid reason it didn’t work. Otherwise some of us may wonder whether we will ever capture our yesterdays .. some of us hang out for yesterday to become today and don’t want to let go. A bit like that movie, ‘Same Time Next Year’. It’s more of a spiritual believing thing than anything else, but like the mystery of life itself, the wonderment is hard to ignore.

Stephanie Turner
Western Australia.
(P.S. I don’t think I’m thick)
(P.S.S. I hope you don’t think I’m thick)

No, I don’t think you are thick. This may be one of the stories where the author’s opinion about what it means is no better than anyone else’s.

I’m not sure that you missed anything although you may not like what you found. The thesis (if the author can be relied upon) is that people today are not who they were in the past. Things don’t work out for Joe and Janice because each is trying to relive the past through the other. Their past relationship was too big a deal.

Love, real deep passionate love, can be a dangerous thing. You can love someone, really be deeply passionately obsessed over them, and yet not really see them at all as they are.

The past can be a dangerous place. It is filled with memories of people, places, and events that are no more, memories are very special to us. It is said, “You can’t go home again.” There is a caveat. You can go home if you do not leave home to begin with. People and places change over time. The reason that you cannot go home is that both you and the place you left change over time. When you try to “go home again” you are trying to be a person who no longer exists going to a place that no longer exists; you are, so to speak, trying to walk into your memories.

This is not to say that you can’t revive old flames; you can, and people do. You can look upon the story as a cautionary tale – that you can’t resurrect the past as it was. This, I opine, is what Joe and Janice were trying to do. There is an implication that both were in needy and empty times in their life – Joe certainly and Janice possibly. It is the need that hones the desperation.

In an odd way the story is a happy one. Their youthful passion was something big, something traumatic in their lives, something unresolved, a question hanging over them in their lives. For each of them, there was in their background the question “What if I had married him/her?” It is the kind of question that can nag at one for a lifetime. In their way they got the question resolved. “No, we were not meant for each other” can be a very satisfying thing to know if you really know it.

I suspect, though, that Joe really doesn’t know what he wants. Joe is a man with problems that aren’t resolved or fully delineated in the story. It is not for nothing that Peter says, “Your Janice is a wise woman.”

As a side note, by the way, the story that I originally intended to write was a little different. Originally my intent was that Janice turned out to be a real bitch and that Joe discovered that the woman he thought he loved wasn’t what he thought she was at all. The last line was composed with that version in mind. When I wrote the story I found that I wanted to write a different story though. You can interpret the last line as you like. Perhaps Joe feels subconsciously that Janice is a bitch. Or perhaps he is happier with Janice, the puppy, than he is with Janice, the woman.

Anyway, I hope this all makes some sense. Thanks for writing and thanks for the kind words about the story.

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From: Sheri Butterfield
Date: 2/27/99
Subj: Poetry

I have enjoyed your poetry. I especially like “I spent my youth on growing old” and “I have debts that must be paid”

Thank you for sharing these with us!!

Thank you for writing. I cannot say that any particular poem is my favorite. Poems that one writes are like your children; you may favor one more than another but you love them all.
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From: Shaggy
Date: 2/27/99
The Rocket Car

“True” story of the rocket car. Decide for yourself. Anyway it’s fun to read, but it’s pretty long.

I dunno if I believe it – he spins a fine line of BS – but it could be true. People do stuff like that. Anyway, thanks for passing it on.

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From: Aaron Lozier
Date: 2/27/99
Subj: Post-modernism

I am a second-year college student, a history major, on a quest to understand what is happening in the world around me, particularly in its relation to the rest of human history–and the grand “story” of humanity itself. I believe an exploration of post-modernism is a good place to start since it seems to explain a lot of “things” (e.g. general patterns of thoughts, feelings, actions–as expressed in all forms of formal/informal art… and basically EVERYTHING) about what is happening all around us. (Forgive my generality, but in fact this is a good introduction to what I’m wanting to discuss.) To quote something from your FAQ:

Post-modernism is what happened afterwards. Unlike its predecessors it is not a general phenomenon; the term “post-modernism” applies to a restricted arena of academia, literary analysis and political activism.
How do you justify the claim that post-modernism is not a general phenomenon? Do you just mean–there is only a restricted use of the term itself? Or do you mean that post-modernism, as an intellectual period, is narrow in scope. If the former, I would agree–especially since no one (including myself) seems to know exactly what the word means. but if the latter, I will have to disagree. So I’ll wait on your response before I elaborate my feelings…
I justify it by looking at the world and what is going on in the world. What are people talking about? What are they doing? What themes, if any, are characteristic of the times? Do the answers to these questions have much to do with post-modernism? The answer, I opine, is not much.
By the way, is there a newsgroup you know of where people discuss topics like this? I’d like to join one, if you have that information avaliable.
Try alt.postmodernism. I don’t read it myself but people often cross post from there to rec.arts.books, which is a newsgroup that I do follow.
(I just came across your page after doing a search on post-modernism, and I have no idea who you are or even if you’re interested in discussing this much further. I guess I’m taking a chance. 🙂
It’s not really a subject in which I take a strong interest. The FAQ, by the way, really is a commentary on an FAQ by a chap who posts under the name “moggin”.

There used to be several good pages on the web on post-modernism; most of them seem to be broken. The web, it comes and goes. Perhaps that’s post-modern.

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From: Longhair49
Date: 3/3/99
The Densa Quiz

A man builds a house rectangular in shape, all four sides have a southern exposure, a Bear walks by, what color is the Bear?
A: White, because the house is on the North Pole.

Why can’t a man living in Montana be buried in Canada? A: Because he is still living.

I have two US coins totaling $0.55 (55-cents), one of the coins is not a nickle, what are the two coins?
A: A fiftycent piece and a nickel, because only one coin is not a nickel.

They may be too difficult for the densa quiz.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 3/3/99
Proper Boskonian – The Gory Years

I thought Mike Saler was enrolled in Beaver Country Day School — I remember his being the entree to our use of their rehearsal space for THE DECOMPOSERS (aka RIVETS HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE — the one fully-produced Boskone play you weren’t in). (Weird connections department:

– one of Beaver’s officers at that time had been head of my school near DC in my last years there; we both sang in the chorus of the first Christmas Revels record, directed by the former music teacher.

– said school’s outgoing head has just been announced as head of my high school in western MA.

I’ve heard of six degrees of separation, but this is getting strange….)

He was indeed. He also went to Concord Academy. IIANM Beaver Country Day School is a grade school and Concord Academy is a high school – or a prep school I suppose. Caroline Kennedy was a classmate of his. He opined that she and the group she hung out with were very snooty.

At this point I don’t even remember which Boskone plays I was in. I know I was the Master of the Universe in one and Darth Vader in another. Was I in any other? Some one of these days I’m going to have to gather together all of my acting credits. Unfortunately I can’t recall them all. Most of them were minor parts – I played a surprising number of querulous old geezers. Talk about being typecast before your time!

… continued on next rock …

Which Caroline Kennedy? JFK’s daughter (now Schlossberg?) is closer to my age than Mike’s.

That one. Mike is closer to your age than you think. Other people get older as you do, you know. Weird and totally unexpected, but there it is.

Darth Vader was a bit part in the second of Mark Keller & Sue Anderson’s plays (in which I played my only named part, Charles Dexter Ward) — in the first (BACK TO RIVETS aka MIK ADO ABOUT NOTHING) you were publishing magnate Richard Deadwood (principle of ZapGun Books, which every cover featuring an ugly face in the lower right foreground — and I wonder how many people still recognize the parody even with those clues?). Master of the Universe was just before my time but I’ve seen the pictures — if you didn’t have one posted I’d offer to sell you the negatives.

There is a moral here of some kind. The doom that threatens to take over the world so often fades away and is forgotten. Where is Roger Elwood now? It’s odd but I can’t remember anything about the “Richard Deadwood” role. Which was the play that ended with Springtime for Nesfa? I also can’t recall the title of the one where I was Master of the Universe. Some roles that I can recall include:

Nesfa musicals:

  • Master of the Universe in Captain Future Meets Gilbert & Sullivan, or, Alas! Who Loves a Spaceman?
  • Darth Vader in Rivets Redux, or, Whatever Happened to Helmuth of Boskone?
  • Richard Deadwood in Back to Rivets

Summerstock Melodrama

  • Father of the Hero in Lily, The Felon’s Daughter
  • Sir Francis Levison in East Lynne (villain)


  • A planter in Emperor Jones
  • A spear carrier in Medea
  • One of the minor pair of lovers in The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • One of the brother’s Grimm in a one act play done in German with subtitles
  • A one act mime melodrama done to the Rhapsody in Blue (villain)
  • Munro Murgatroyd in Dirty Works at the Crossroads (villain)
  • House Owner in George Washington Slept Here
  • Id of a female writer in ??? (mime)

High School

  • Hermit in Seven Keys to Baldpate (Sr play)
  • ???? (Jr. Play)

There are some more in there somewhere but I forget what they are.

… continued on next rock …

Re Aging People and Mike Saler.

I know it rather well, even if I sometimes lose track of where people are — I was embarassed at New Year’s by asking someone who graduated a year ago how college was going. But I thought I had Mike pegged as high school class of at least ’77 (based on a contretemps involving the mother of one of his friends — she did not want her son involved in the Florida production of BACK TO RIVETS because it would interfere with his first days of college) and maybe later. (I thought Mike was still in high school when he wrote his own number for THE DECOMPOSERS in 1979.)

I think he was. The “Roasting Richard Harter” issue of PB came out in 1979. The non-existent Mark Anderson (a hoax jointly concocted by Mike and I) was editor and Mike was still living at home. However Mike definitely knew Caroline Kennedy while she was at Concord Academy.
Re Roger Elwood:

I wonder whether he would do better now. 23 years ago SF was much less commoditized; I’ve been told he failed because his publisher couldn’t cope with people buying books by quality (or at least by author’s name) rather than in uniform quantities. I’m not sure why his heap of original anthologies didn’t continue — I don’t remember them being any worse than the flood of theme anthologies we get now.

That’s a good question. I wonder if people really buy the theme anthologies. I suppose they must or they wouldn’t keep flooding the bookshelves. Has anyone told Mike Resnick that he is the Roger Elwood of the 90’s? Has anyone still living done that?
Which was the play that ended with Springtime for Nesfa?
That was The Decomposers (cf. The Producers (with Zero Mostel & Gene Wilder), which featured “Springtime for Hitler” — Mark Keller was so put out that nobody in NESFA took offense…).
Now that I remember!

Re: The Merry Wives of Windsor

I ran props for this in high school; I have massive difficulties visualizing you as the dashing young Fenton. There’s something so — brainless? — about that role; even Orlando has a bit more substance. (One expects young lovers in Shakespeare to be insubstantial, but Fenton is even more so, possibly because he’s there mostly to be manipulated around.)

I’m not sure if I was Fenton or not. I’m going to have to dig up my copy of TMWOW and see if I recognize my role. It may be an injustice but I’ve always thought that TMWOW is one of the very minor Shakespearean plays.
It’s fascinating what one remembers — I would have thought a role the size of yours in _Back to Rivets_ would be less forgettable, but I suppose ending the play with people beating on the wastebasket over your head (“Yes! I want to be King!”) could drive out other memories….
That must be it. IIRC (and I probably don’t) Don Lundry had a part in that play. Or am I thinking of a completely different play in which there was a confusion about who was chairman of the convention and in which they ended up putting together the program on the spot.

In any case it is sort of amazing. I know I was in the play; I know I had the role; and yet I cannot recall anything about it – not one single line, not one single scene.

Before he completely dropped out of touring to raise a family, Alyosha (of the Flying Karamazov Brothers) had a particularly colorful metaphor: he said life was like being given an index card, a sharp pen, and an eraser, and only being able to keep what you could fit on the card; he was watching his kids pick what went on the card. I don’t know that most of us get conscious choices, but there’s certainly more room (fewer events already experienced) to remember things that happened when we were younger. I was certainly younger and more energetic then — I can’t imagine producing shows like that now. (The arrival of the Close Encounters mothership, the 18 inches of solid Prell shampoo….) (I was also less phlegmatic — I still remember a nightmare a week before Back to Rivets about finding the hotel halfway through reconstruction to turn it into a simulacrum of the country’s worst high-school auditorium.)
Ah, high-school auditoriums. What delightful memories. When I was at Brookings SD we active drama types were rewarded by getting to go on play tour. This meant that we hit 2-3 high schools a day in western SD. All of our staging and props were in a van and were all carefully organized. When we arrived at a high school we had somewhat less than a hour to locate everything and set up the production.

We did three bits. One was the aforementioned Melodrama Mime set to the Rhapsody in Blue. One was the German one act play. We set up a slide projector in back to flash subtitles. Kind of neat, sort of weird. The third was the one act version of Madame Butterfly, which I was not in.

When we hit Pine Ridge (the Sioux reservation) we ran into an unusual problem. The first line in the play is spoken by Madame Butterfly. She is calling her maid; the line goes “Suzuki, Suzuki. Where is my little Suzuki?” Nothing exceptional about that, you say? Ordinarily, no. In this production, however, it was greeted by titters across the auditorium. Thereafter each reference to Suzuki was met by a wave of sniggers. Afterwards we learned that “suzuki” is very close to the Sioux word for “penis”.

… continued on next rock …

Re Mike Saler and Caroline Kennedy

“Knew” wouldn’t surprise me (now that I’ve taken my shoes off to help with arithmetic); Mike would be right about the age of her kid brother.

That doesn’t count. I would imagine that when you take your shoes off the effect is quite pyschedelic and no reliance at all can be placed on your arithmetic.
Re Mike Resnick as the Roger Elwood of the 90’s

That’s not quite a fair comparison; the good authors write good stuff for Resnick, Greenberg, et al. (Space Opera has a stunner by Peter Beagle), which they usually didn’t for Elwood, and I expect the rest of the work published compares with magazine work by non-Names. But it would be an interesting experiment; I nominate you. (I’ll even find some way to distract “Eddie Princeton” so he doesn’t attack you for le`se-majeste’

Not me. I exhausted my supply of foolhardy bravery decades ago when I was in the Marine Corps. I’m working on my abject cowardice routine for the next millennium.
Re The Merry Wives of Windsor

It’s certainly a domestic farce (nevermind that the uniform editions usually say Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s only farce), building a plot around a comic-relief character from more serious plays without the substance of any of the other comedies. (Twelfth Night is also insubstantial — and similarly written to command?)

Oh dear, do the uniform editions say that? TMWOW is, I agree, a domestic farce. Many years ago the theater group at Brandeis did a revival of a Roman comedy, a farce of no small order, and the lead character reminded me very much of Falstaff in TMWOW. The ancient Romans had a rather low taste in comedy.

Re the acting career of Don Lundry

Don Lundry wasn’t in The Decomposers (just like Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven weren’t).

Uh, huh.

My curiosity is aroused. Is Mark Keller still about in fandom? The scripts for those various productions ought to be printed up somewhere; I don’t know who else would have a copy although I imagine Joe’s copy of Captain Future meets Gilbert and Sullivan is enshrined under glass.

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This page was last updated March 25, 1999.
It was reformatted and moved December 16, 2004.

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